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Gillingham coach James Russell back at his hometown club

By Luke Cawdell

Fitness coach James Russell feels right back at home with Gillingham.

The lifelong Gills fan has been back at the club for less than a month after an eventful time away.

Russell initially joined the Gills back in the summer of 2012, enjoying the League 2 title-winning ride under Martin Allen, before leaving in October 2014 during Peter Taylor’s reign.

James Russell watches on with fellow coach Ian Cox Picture: Ady Kerry
James Russell watches on with fellow coach Ian Cox Picture: Ady Kerry

Since then he’s worked at Dagenham, linked back up with Allen twice, at Barnet and Eastleigh where he was taken on as assistant manager and even had a game as caretaker-boss, spent a month in Australia and got a job as a lecturer.

It’s been a whirlwind few years but when the Gills came calling again, he was quick to take up the offer.

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He said: “I feel like I belong here and it has been easy to get back in.

“It’s the same faces, many of the same people. It didn’t take long to get back into it and the players are a really good bunch as well. I enjoy coming in every morning.”

Gillingham fitness coach James Russell Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham fitness coach James Russell Picture: Ady Kerry

Russell was working as a university lecturer of physiology in London for the last few months, thinking his time in football might be behind him.

His last job was at Eastleigh, a year ago, leaving there in the wake of Allen’s sacking.

He said: “I was comfortable lecturing. I was getting the train, like all the commuters do. Football wasn’t on the radar. I was happy to carry on.

“There were a few clubs who rang me up and then didn’t call back. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get back into football and then Boxing Day, Gary (Hemens, the Gills physio) called me.”

There was the chance of work at Gillingham and while having a cuppa with the physio, manager Steve Lovell walked in.

Russell said: “We were chatting and there was no mention of a full-time job but 30 minutes later the manager walks in and takes me to the boardroom to see the chairman.

“We spent an hour chatting and reminiscing and I was asked to come in full-time. I said ‘absolutely’.”

Read more from the Gills coach, including on his time at Barnet working as no.2 to Martin Allen, in this week's Medway Messenger newspaper.

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