GILLS LAY GHOST OF WEMBLEY WOE
Kedwell makes up for misery as fan
FOURTEEN years ago Danny Kedwell was at Wembley when Gillingham suffered the heartbreak of last gasp play-off final defeat to Manchester City.
Kedwell was born in the town, and he used to go to all the home games at Priestfield with his Uncle Lewis from the age of seven onwards, and later with friends in his teens.
He still remembers the days of Tony Pulis, Bob Taylor, Carl Asaba and Guy Butters and that remarkable comeback by City in 1999 that ended in a penalty shootout defeat for the Gills.
That feeling has never left Kedwell, now 29, but celebrating the club’s first league title for 49 years – after a 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon clinched the League Two title – went some way to making up for it.
Much of his childhood was spent on the Rainham End, and celebrating Gillingham’s promotion with this new generation of fans brought the memories back.
“I was a regular down there from the age of seven, going with my Uncle Lewis and cheering them on,” said Kedwell.
“I went to pretty much every home game, and got to see the Man City game at Wembley. It was good just to get the chance to get promoted, but it was such a gutting way to lose.
“I think it’s one of them that you don’t mind losing, but to lose on penalties was gutting. We had a great side under Tony Pulis, it was devastating not to go up but I think this has more than made up for it.
“It’s the club I supported, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and it’s a dream come true.
“Being a local lad it makes it extra special for me. It’s the stuff you dream of as a kid to be on the same pitch and wearing a championship medal after 50 years or so without one.
“I’ve had some great memories down the years but this tops the lot.”
Kedwell has ensured his name will live on at Priestfield, after he he scored the winner against Torquay that secured promotion back to the third tier and was on target again in the draw with the Dons. And while the former Welling United and Grays striker has never played in League One, he thinks the Gills can make it two titles in a row under boss Martin Allen.
“The whole club is on a high, so we’re going into League One full of confidence and we’re aiming to make it back-to-back promotions,” added Kedwell, who scored 16 goals this season.
“We need to make sure this momentum is carried forward. I’ll have a nice break with the family but I’ll be back next season hoping to continue in the same form.
“It will be my first time in League One, but I’m not nervous. I’ll be giving it 100 per cent as ever and making sure I’m making that step up.
“We need to aim as high as we can, and Gillingham are a Championship club in my eyes anyway given the support we have here. It would be great to get to that next level playing some really big clubs.
“We’re champions and we’re going out to get another one – when you’re doing well it stays with you.
“We didn’t really know what the manager was about at the start of the season and we certainly didn’t expect to have done as well as we have.
“It’s been quite a turnaround at the club. There was an awful lot of work to be done, and he’s done a great job – we’ve been top for all but about two or three weeks so we thoroughly deserve the title.
“We’ve done it the right way. We’ve won promotion as champions and it’s been a great experience.”
UP-BEAT: Danny Kedwell celebrates scoring the goal that clinched the title and sparked celebrations (below)
TOUGH: Keeper Nicky Weaver celebrates Man City’s win