(Photo: Action Images)
By Sam Elliott
ADY PENNOCK is a believer. Good job, too. If he’d lost his faith a game before the end of last season, he may have considered walking away for good.
The new Gillingham manager is a big fan of fate as well. He’s quite taken with the number 17 but just a few months ago he would have been forgiven for thinking his number was up.
Pennock replaced Justin Edinburgh at the League One Gills after the Kent club tumbled into the lower half of the table, rolling away from their play-off target in the process.
The new man was certainly a left-field choice but as one of the game’s most respected coaches, it was only a matter of time before he was given a go in the EFL.
The 45-year-old today reveals he turned down the chance to talk to Notts County and Port Vale about their vacancies – as well as Blackburn Rovers, who were keen on him becoming their new defensive coach.
But Pennock wanted to go home. Gillingham is his club and his town and he lives less than five minutes from the ground. Although it wasn’t the high-profile appointment fans perhaps expected, they have one of their own fighting their corner.
As captain he took them into the First Division for the first time in their history back in 2000 and now he wants to do the same as their manager.
He told The Football League Paper: “I believe in fate, I always hoped I would one day get the chance to manage this club after having such a strong association with them and I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am to return here as manager.
“I say fate because if things had worked out in a different way and I hadn’t been sacked by Forest Green Rovers at the end of last season, just before the National League play-offs began, then I wouldn’t have had this opportunity at all.
“It was tough to take at the time, of course it was losing my job a few days before the serious stuff began, but I know things happen for a reason. I believe in all that, I truly do.
“I’m currently putting my faith in the number 17!” he added. “That’s the number I wore as a player at Gillingham, that’s the number of years it is since I led the team up to collect the trophy when we won promotion and January 17 is the date of my first home match in front of the fans (v AFC Wimbledon).
“Of course I got the job a few days into 2017 – unfortunately we’re 17th in the table, but let’s hope we won’t be there for too long!”
There’s another reason why he is so glad to be back involved in the game he loves.
Tragedy struck the Pennock family in November, his brother Kevin collapsed and died of a heart attack aged just 47. It rocked the manager, but the life-changing moment will add fuel to his engine as he looks to make a success of his Medway chance.
“Losing Kevin was obviously a shock for all of us,” Pennock said. “We’ve had a few weeks now but it doesn’t get any easier. We’re coping as a family, and it makes me incredibly sad that he wasn’t around to hear the news that I had been given the Gillingham job. He would have been so happy.”
Chairman Paul Scally has given Pennock, who will be joined by Welling United manager Jamie Day and Bromley coach Steve Lovell as his assistants, deals until the end of the season.
“A change was necessary to ensure the club achieves the best position possible,” Scally said. “The current squad is the most expensive in the history of Gillingham FC, it has enormous potential and is capable of achieving great success over the remainder of the season and beyond.”