Cloughie seemed as mystified as the rest of us by his team’s under-par performance against Preston, particularly as it might be considered as his current first-choice eleven.
It certainly gave him food for thought. This 11 battled Spurs to a standstill, a shadow side played well at Deepdale to get a draw, and a team with several new faces at first frustrated Swindon and then beat them.
I expect most, if not all, of those will return at Gillingham, as well as a first involvement for Matt Done.
Cloughie’s recent recruitment drive somewhat goes against what he said last summer: i.e. that he wanted a small squad of top quality players. I think 18 was the number he mentioned. Now it’s more like 28, but he has realised as the season has gone on that he needs more than two complete teams to challenge on all fronts.
The return of John Brayford is most welcome, though there’s a valid argument that if, as a League One club, you have over £1 million to spend, you don’t spend it on a full back. But you can’t always put a value on what a player brings to a squad. Brayford is a rare breed amongst footballers. On the day he signed he acknowledged he had taken a big pay cut, but remarked that memories mean more to him than money. How refreshing to hear that.
Cloughie has shown that he does not worry about a player’s physical stature: Louis Reed and Stefan Scougall will have someone else they can see eye-to-eye with in Jason Holt. Paul Coutts, at six feet tall, looked a comparative giant last Saturday. But a team of diminutive players always brings problems defending corners – witness the number of such goals we have conceded this season.