I’m excited! Gary Mills is the one coach I’ve seen in the Conference that I’ve coveted. And now he’s ours, all ours!
Our games against Mills’ sides have always been intriguing tactical battles. I particularly recall a game at Bootham Crescent when he was manager of York City. It was the best goalless draw I’ve seen as both sides probed and adjusted in an attempt to force a breakthrough. A York fan sitting in front of me complimented me on my commentary after the match, but it was misplaced praise: the quality of the match made describing it a simple pleasure.
Our clashes with Gateshead have been equally fascinating. I’ve anticipated them eagerly over the last couple of seasons as they have produced some intriguing football. It always fascinated me that Gateshead, with crowds which often failed to reach four figures, could produce such sophisticated football, an impressive take on Pep Guardiola-era tiki-taka.
The only possible explanation for such a stunning feat is good coaching. Mills has taken Conference players and moulded them into sides capable of playing with extreme tactical flexibility. That’s what excites me most about his arrival.
By the sound of Dean Keates’ post-match interview on Saturday it is also something which ought to excite the players. His claims that training under Kevin Wilkin was out of date and failed to stimulate the squad was alarming but not surprising as it confirmed what many had suggested as the season wore on. Mills’ regime will surely be the antithesis of this.
Indeed, the problem for a coach with such a radical outlook is usually the opposite: there’s a danger he might fail to take his players with him if he doesn’t sell the concept to them successfully. Marcelo Bielsa, the high priest of tiki-taka, has experienced this issue in the past, but Mills’ track record shows that he seems to inspire genuine loyalty in his players. Furthermore, he’ll inherit a squad which responded well to Carl Darlington’s coaching and are hungry for more.
Speaking of Keates, I’d love to think that Mills will give him an opportunity to end his career at the heart of Wrexham’s rise back to the Football League. It has become apparent that Wilkin didn’t have the faith in Keates that he ought to have had, and ultimately his failure to properly utilise such an experienced player cost him his job.
Wilkin clearly saw Keates’ 36 years as an issue; Gary Mills installed John Oster, who is 36 himself, as Gateshead’s totemic figure. Perhaps Mills will see Keates as his team’s regulator, controlling the tempo of their passing game. If so, a great servant of the club might have his greatest years ahead of him.
Mills has got clubs to play intelligent football on a shoestring, and now he’s moving to a club which should have a superior budget. Furthermore, he will inherit players who can move the ball around just as he likes it; I can’t wait to see what he does with them.
I can’t wait to see what he does with my club either. After eagerly wanting the season to come to an end, all of a sudden I can’t wait for next season to start!