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League One Spotlight:

Gills Fuller hope

As part of skysports.com's League One spotlight, Chris Burton catches up with Gillingham captain Barry Fuller.

League One Spotlight - League One Spotlight Posted 19th February 2010 view comments

Change can be difficult to deal with - be it moving home, switching job, getting married etc.

It inevitably takes time to grow accustomed to new surroundings, with those involved taken out of their comfort zone and placed in a situation which is alien to them.

Finding your feet as quickly as possible is imperative, though, in order to prevent a difficult time from quickly descending into a disastrous one.

Fuller: Leading by example

Fuller: Leading by example

An inability to meet the demands of the change in environment/circumstances will see things unravel at an alarming pace and before you know it there is nothing that can be done to put things right.

Time is very much of the essence, with stability needing to be established before further progress can be made.

The consequences of failure in the real world can be far reaching and painful, while it can be argued that similar repercussions lie in wait in sporting circles.

The joy which accompanies a cup triumph, a league title or a successful promotion bid will be quickly forgotten if they do not become the catalyst for further achievement.

Going backwards will alienate supporters, pile pressure on managers, eat away at precious resources and create an atmosphere geared towards disappointment rather than delirium.

The nature of sport suggests there must be winners and losers, heroes and villains, but fate lies squarely in the hands of those directly involved in generating performances and positive results.

Potential disaster can be avoided if morale is kept high and everyone pulls together in the same direction.

One club currently buying into these beliefs, and hoping they pay dividends, is League One outfit Gillingham.

Having clambered into the third tier via the play-offs last term, the Gills have struggled to get to grips with the demands of competing at a higher level.

Spirits

An alarming slump has left them looking anxiously over their shoulder, with an immediate return to League Two now an all too realistic possibility.

They are, however, confident that a route to safety can be negotiated, preserving their current status and allowing them the chance to right a few wrongs next term.

Club captain Barry Fuller will be expected to play a leading role in their quest to reach this target, with the combative full-back telling skysports.com's Chris Burton that he will be doing all he can to help guide the Gills clear of trouble.

"It has been a bit up and down this season but the last few weeks the mood has got a bit better and everyone's sticking together," he said.

"We know we have to do that to get out of this sticky patch. But the morale in the camp is high and everyone is buzzing at the moment. We just need a couple of results to go our way.

"We have suffered a dip in form but we are trying our hardest to get out of that. We have had a couple of meetings over the last couple of weeks and the manager is trying to keep spirits high.

"The players are bouncing off the manager in that way and we have had a good time training this week and we are raring to go for Saturday's game.

"Some people are saying we are in the relegation fight already but if you look at the table it's still quite tight and if you win a couple of games you can jump up four or five places.

"There are 15 games left and that's still a lot of points to play for. If we can pick up a few points from those games to get us away from that patch near the bottom that will be good for us, and we believe we can still do that.

"When you are in a bit of bad form teams come to you with a bit of confidence that they can get something. So the sooner we can get out of this sticky patch the better and hopefully against Bristol Rovers on Saturday we can get the right performance."

While goal difference is the only thing keeping Gillingham's head above water at present, there is a feeling that they are entering a pivotal point in the season which could see them turn the corner.

Three of their next four games are on home soil and Priestfield has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Mark Stimson's side this season, with seven wins in front of their own supporters a record on a par with play-off chasing MK Dons and three more than a Walsall side comfortably perched in the top half of the table.

Tense

"Our home form has been the more positive thing this season. The games we have got coming up at home, we believe we can get three points from," added Fuller.

"Hopefully we can shut the gap on some of the teams around us and start pulling away from the boys in the bottom four. That's our target, so we will take each game as it comes and start with Saturday.

"It can be easier to play away from home at times, but our form hasn't been like that. Our home support has been good, the last couple have been a bit tense and the fans haven't been happy with the last few performances, but that happens and you get that in football.

"We can deal with that and as soon as we get the ball towards goal at home the fans seem to suck it towards the net. Hopefully they will do that and get behind us in the next few games at home. Saturday and Tuesday (Leyton Orient) we have games at home and it would be great to come away with six points."

Six points would go a long way to seeing the Gills safe and Fuller insists the club's sole aim at the start of the season was to finish outside of the bottom four.

He said: "The manager has built his squad and that was his target. As soon as we went up, I think any team that goes up, that is the target - to stay in the division and then kick-on.

"The manager always said that, and 20th will keep you up, so that's our target. We will then look to kick on the season after that.

"If we can keep ourselves in this league, which we believe we can, hopefully next season we can push for a higher position than we have this season."

It remains to be seen whether Stimson will still be around come the end of the season, with pressure mounting by the week on the young coach, but Fuller insists the club would be well advised to keep faith with the man who led them to promotion last term.

"It's not nice to see, but managers always seem to get that," Fuller said on Stimson's unenviable situation.

"He is still 100 per cent confident though, he is a bubbly character and he comes in every day with a smile on his face. Whatever pressure he gets he can take on his shoulders and he doesn't let it get to the team. He has taken it himself but he doesn't let it affect the players. That's good for the team.

"He is young and he got us up last year and he is building a squad. At the start of the season he said his target was for us to stay in the league, if we finish 20th that was the target and everything else above that was a bonus.

"We are still on track to do that so it would be a bit harsh if he was to be let go when that was the target at the start of the season."

Steady

Stimson will be looking to Fuller as his skipper to provide leadership on the field and the 25-year-old midfielder insists he is doing his utmost to meet those demands.

"I think I have been steady and it has been a decent season," he said.

"I had an up and down season last year. I played and then I had pneumonia and missed a few games and I found it hard to get my fitness back, but the season ended brilliantly and I have just continued to play my game this year.

"That is the sort of player I am, I am consistent and I give everything. I am pleased with my performances so far this season.

"Being captain some people look to you, the fans especially, and think we need you to get the boys going. I try and do that during the week in training and before games and I gee the players up on the pitch and keep them going, even if we are losing.

"We are a strong unit and we believe we can get ourselves out of this and being captain I am the leader and I need to make sure we keep that belief in the changing room."

Fuller, who joined the Gills from Stevenage in 2008, is adamant he can fulfil his personal ambitions at Priestfield and insists he would be happy to commit his long-term future to the club if asked.

He said: "I hope to match my ambition here. I like being here, it's a local club to me and every player wants to play regularly.

"Hopefully Gillingham can stay at this level and then who knows where we can go from here. Contract-wise, I am committed to Gillingham and I want to go as high as possible with this club.

"It was a great decision for me to come here. I took a big decision in my career when I dropped out of the league to go to Stevenage and it was a big decision when I came here.

"I had to fight for my place, I got it and then it has just got better and better for me. Being captain and walking up the Wembley steps and playing every week, performing well, that's my main target.

"If I am performing to the best of my ability I will keep the shirt and if I can do that every week I will be happy."

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