Stimson looking forward to Wembley return
Stimson looking forward to Wembley return

With Gillingham on the verge of Play Off football for the first time in over a decade, the man who steered them to Wembley glory in 2009 is himself looking for a return to the national stadium in May.

For Mark Stimson, this strangest of seasons will see him heading back to Wembley – this time in the FA Trophy with Isthmian League Hornchurch…

In an exclusive interview with KSN, Stimson admitted that he still looks out for the Gills results. “I still follow the scores – I think that you do with every team that you’ve had an association with, and you look out for their results, and you wish them success!” he said.

“My time at Gillingham was very much a roller coaster ride unfortunately, but I remember the good times and totally understand why the Chairman made the decision to sack me at the time and you move on from there.”

“But I still look out for their results – I’ve kept in contact with Barry Fuller, and was so pleased when he went back to the club and had another couple of good years…”

“They haven’t been as close as they have the day we beat Shrewsbury in the Final, but hopefully they can get there this season… wouldn’t it be great for Gillingham to get promoted through the Play Offs again and my team to win the Trophy?” Stimson mused, “it would make the summer even sweeter!”

Last Saturday saw Hornchurch upset Notts County on penalties after a 3-3 draw to reach the Wembley Final against Hereford, who incidentally are now managed by former Gills defender Josh Gowling.

“I think what we’ve pulled off this season is amazing. It’s difficult putting it into words really,” Stimson admitted. “In a football context you really have to say that it’s like The Gills getting to the FA Cup Final! It doesn’t happen very often; our last League game was on November 3rd at Folkestone on a Tuesday night and we were beaten in the last minute. Not a League ball kicked since then and “just” seven games in the Trophy!”

“We’ve managed to get the players into decent condition and get them motivated! Like every Cup run you have to have a bit of luck on the way, but the desire to keep going until that last minute and that showed last Saturday against Notts County getting a last-minute equaliser after getting a last-minute winner against Maidstone. The players deserve full credit for keeping up with the training and their standards.”

“We’ve beaten five sides higher than ourselves including three ex League clubs – it’s an achievement that everyone at the club is so very proud of and now we go that one step further as we go to the best stadium in our country if not the world and try and pull off another win against a team from a higher division again.”

For Stimson, the Final will be the chance to win the Trophy for a fifth time – the fourth as a manager – a fact that Stimson modestly conceded. “You can sit back one day and think about it – and one day I’m sure that you will – but at the moment we just have to stay in the motion, stay in the mood, stay in the zone and focus on everything!”

“It’s something that I’m obviously proud of, but I’ve only ever been as good as my players and the players who have helped me win the competitions in the past.”

“They’ve all been what this group is… and that’s honest, they work extremely hard, and I’m just a believer that the harder you work in the end, you will get the results; you’ll have ups and downs like I’ve had in my career as a player and a manager.”

“But if they’re prepared to work hard and you love something so much and it’s in you, and you have the passion for it, keep going… it will be a great way to end this season – they’ve got their day out now that they will never, ever, forget and if we can finish it off and win it, the celebrations will continue, I’m sure, long into the summer!”