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Clemence up for FA Cup derby
Clemence up for FA Cup derby

The magic of the FA Cup comes to Priestfield this weekend with Charlton Athletic making the short journey to Kent and Stephen Clemence is looking forward to the tie.

Gillingham go into Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup “A2 derby” with Charlton Athletic at Priestfield on the back of Tuesday’s late, late League win over AFC Wimbledon, with Round Three in their sights for a second successive season and the fourth time in the last six years. 

But for new Head Coach Steven Clemence, it will not only be his first experience of the “derby” but also his first taste of a Second-Round tie in the Greatest Cup Competition in the World! 

“It’s different in the fact that it’s longer to the Final,” Clemence admitted with a smile on his face, “you want to win every game! I have experienced going to lower League grounds as a Premier League player or as a coach – you turn up and people are expecting a banana skin, but you still must do a job.” 

“It is my first experience of the first rounds, but I’m hoping for another experience of the Third Round too!” 

Clemence’s dad Ray graced five Finals themselves – winning two; one each for Liverpool in 1973 and Spurs in 1981 – and it is a competition that the Gills Head Coach holds dear.

“I got to the Semi Final as a player at Tottenham, where we got beaten by Arsenal unfortunately,” Clemence admitted, “It was probably the biggest day of my career!”

“I was in my early twenties and before the game I was nervous – a North London derby at Old Trafford was a big game – and unfortunately, I came out on the wrong side!”

“I think I also got to the Quarter Final with Birmingham as well – we played Liverpool at St Andrews and we got beaten heavily!” 

“Rivalries is what football is all about and I have played and been involved in a few fierce ones. They’re not far away from us, but any rivalry is a good one in football as it’s what makes football – the banter between fans as long it doesn’t get out of hand and I’m looking forward to a really good atmosphere and possibly my first sell out here at the weekend and I hope our fans will be right behind us singing loud and proud!” 

Tuesday’s late win came after a twenty-five-minute delay for floodlight failure when a power cut hit the stadium and the surrounding area.

“It was tough for the players,” Clemence told us, “When the game gets held up, no-one knows what’s going to happen!”

“After what happened when the lights went out against Leyton Orient, the Club had a plan which we put into place as we walked to the dressing room.”

“The boys did some light gym work and had a touch of the ball – fortunately, we were at home so had a bit more than Wimbledon – and I think it showed when the teams came out after the delay as I thought we were the better team.” 

“I won’t call it an inspired sub at the end of the game; I just say well done to Macauley (Bonne) for coming on and being involved in the thick of things straight away with a great header down to Conor (Masterson) who finished it off nicely!” 

Clemence hinted that his squad is nearing full strength as December begins.

“Robbie McKenzie has had a full week’s training – I have got one concern going into the weekend and there will be a late fitness test on one of the boys, but generally the rest of the squad is ready to go.”

“I am not saying that they are ready to start the game, but pretty much the rest of the squad are ready to be involved!”