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View from the South Stand - Gillingham 09/08/11

With Brighton and Hove Albion set to play host to their old landlords Gillingham on Tuesday night in the first round of the Carling Cup, we asked Simon Head - Editor of Gills365, to answer some questions for us.

After missing out on the play offs on goal difference last season, what are the expectations for this coming campaign?
We're lighter up front at the moment, and we need to address that as soon as possible, but overall I'd say we're looking a lot stronger in key areas than we were last year. Hopes are high for an improvement on last season's eighth-place finish. If we can find another goalscorer to play alongside new signing Danny Kedwell up front, that would give us a serious shot at automatic promotion.

Who are the key men in the Gills side we should be looking out for on Tuesday night?
Being the Carling Cup, and the fact that we're playing against a Championship side, there's a fair chance we'll field a less than full strength side for this match. The match may see a chance for our 19-year-old Argentinean goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga. He can barely speak any English, but is already something of a cult hero at the club. In midfield, our former Peterborough pair of Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale should really be operating at Brighton's level this season anyway. That they're playing for us is something of a coup for the club.

Andy Hessenthaler is obviously a bit of a club legend and a relatively successful manager having led Dover to two promotions and you guys to your highest ever finish. What went wrong and caused him to resign in his first spell, and is he a better boss now?
In short, failure to regenerate an ageing squad. The team was largely the one he used to play in, and perhaps he was a little too close to some of the players. An alternative view could suggest the resources weren't there to replace them anyway. But the truth is we had too many players who were past their best and not enough quality coming through to replace them. In the end, that cost us our league position. Back then he was a rookie manager, but now I definitely think his experience will stand him in good stead this season.

How much do you know about the current Albion side?
I know that Gus Poyet is doing an outstanding job there, and it'll be interesting to see discover the next star to come from your club following the departure of the impressive Elliott Bennett in the summer. Brighton has always been a big club that has struggled after losing their ground over a decade ago. Your promotion couldn't have been better timed, considering the completion of your new stadium. If you can keep Poyet at the helm, I can see the Seagulls consolidating their position in the Championship over the next couple of years.

Gus Poyet is likely to play a weakened side. How seriously do you think Andy Hessenthaler and Gillingham will be taking the game?
It's tricky. Our squad isn't huge, but we will have a number of potential first-teamers who will miss out on the starting XI in the league, so I expect they'll get a run-out at the Amex on Tuesday night.

We obviously once shared a home ground and you were one of the more frequent teams to visit Withdean. Are you looking forward to visiting The Amex?
Unfortunately work commitments prevent me from making the trip, but I'm incredibly jealous of those Gills fans who are. The stadium looks fantastic (especially the beer hand-pumps!) and I'm sure our fans will come back from that game praising the standard of the ground. One thing I will guarantee - our fans will do everything they can to contribute to a great atmosphere on the night.

Do you think that Gillingham will ever hit the heights of being a solid, mid table side in the Championship again?
It's possible, but it's a few years off at present. First of all we need to get out of League Two - no mean feat in itself.

Paul Scally is, for want of a better word, a bit of a character. He's banned newspaper reporters, a chairman of a supporters group and has not hidden his desire to move the club to another Kent location. What's the general opinion about him among fans?
It's fair to say the chairman has been something of a divisive character down the years. I'm sure he's passionate and committed to the club, but in my humble opinion he, and the club as a whole, can and should look at their relationship with the fans, because it's not as strong as it could, or should, be.

What do you think of the following with Brighton-Gillingham connections - Peter Taylor, Andrew Crofts, Danny Cullip and Mark McCammon?
Peter Tayor inherited the fantastic squad built by Pulis, transformed them into an attractive passing side and got us promoted at Wembley. Andrew Crofts had huge potential and showed some real quality while at Gillingham, but perhaps got a little stale and needed a move. Brighton gave him that and now his performances for Norwich have helped them into the Premier League. One of our local boys done good. Danny Cullip was a no-nonsense centre half who we only had for a short spell, while Mark McCammon's tenure at the club could best be described as a bad move for both parties.

Finally, what do you think the score will be?
If we play an under-strength side, 3-1 to Brighton. If we play our full-strength team, I can see us getting a draw in the 90 minutes. From there, who knows?

Many thanks to Simon for his insight into the forthcoming fixture!


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