The Monday Profile: Matt Fish
The Football League would always have witnessed a flurry of activity this past Friday given that contract time periods tend to run from June to June, but amid the plethora of deals variously initiated, extended and rubber stamped, the actions of Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler really stood out.
No less than six incomers were lined up for Priestfield photo shoots – most tellingly, the capture of man of Kent, Danny Kedwell – recently the subject of this very feature and departing an AFC Wimbledon who will feel jilted at the altar.
Kedwell is a marquee signing, even if he admits himself that his achievements owe more to graft than skill; but among Gills’ other acquisitions, it was the capture of attacking right back Matt Fish that caught my eye.
Full back can be a low risk position to recruit for and yet crucially important. In these days of 4-5-1, it’s often the only sector of the field where space is allowed and having a young, athletic proponent to take advantage of this is a boon. Fish crosses the county with a good reputation indeed, including two promotions under his former boss and a role in the upstarts’ famous FA Cup victory over the Gills last winter. Released by Crystal Palace as a youngster, he clocked up 160 games at the gloriously named Crabble and almost joined Gillingham a year ago. A tidy sideline as a personal trainer may have been the reason for his choosing to remain part time at that point as well as captain Barry Fuller’s occupancy of his position. Now, with some murmurings that the latter underperformed in 2010-11, Fish may fancy his first team chances better.
Relations between the two Kentish clubs haven’t been all they should be in recent times with the defection of Hess and his assistant Ian Hendon going down like an aspirin canoe by the White Cliffs, but the realities of business have persisted and Fish joins goalkeeping team mate Ross Flitney in the commute.
Having three Gillingham supporting mates, I saw a lot of the Medwayers in the nineties and noughties and I could scarcely rate Hessenthaler’s judgement as a manager any more highly. That he has been charged with engineering a revival after the listless Mark Stimson era is no surprise – and this major bout of squad bolstering relays a message to Crawley and others.