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Archived News from February 2023

26th February 2023 10:32

Hawkins happy to be at Gills
kentsportsnews.com BY MIKE GREEN, 21 FEBRUARY 2023

The latest Rainham End hero has now netted in his last two games. But for Gillingham’s new target man, Oli Hawkins, it’s only the start…

Talking to KSN, the striker - or defender - told us about his move to Kent and what it’s like coming to Priestfield as an away player and skipper.

But we started with the question a lot of fans have asked - did the club sign a forward or defender, and which did Hawkins himself prefer?
“I’ve been getting that question a lot the last two years and it is a difficult question,” Hawkins confessed.


“A lot of people probably want to hear me say forward, whilst a lot want to hear me say at the back, but it truly is whatever the team that I’m playing for the style of play, it’s what I’m suited for, so for instance at Mansfield, I preferred it at the back because they were more of a passing team, looking to pass it and I wasn’t really getting involved much.”

“But here, it’s a lot of balls forward, it’s a lot of balls in the box, it’s a lot of set pieces, it’s a lot of a style that suits me down to the ground. So, I love playing up front here!”

“In the last few years, I have to admit that my mind has changed - wherever I’m playing my mind is focused on one or the other and at Priestfield it’s up front. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can answer which one I prefer…”
“I’m in an important part of my life where I have two kids so when this opportunity came up, I’m from London and my contract was nearly up at Mansfield, I do like new challenges and it just felt that it was a really good opportunity with a manager who I know has liked me in the past and I’ve been fond of.”

“With Kenny Jackett in the background who I’ve worked for and the plan that I was told - there were a lot of things that went into it and there were a lot of positive things thinking about it!”

“It was a tough decision to leave Mansfield because I was playing week in, week out and being Captain in a lot of the games, but when you get to a certain age, it doesn’t just boil down to the football, you have to consider your family and your future.”
“I know that the Gaffer has been interested in me in his previous jobs but it didn’t work out before. I knew coming here that he wanted me as a centre forward and that is something that excites me.”

“I enjoyed playing at the back, but when you know that you’re going to a team that plays a style that will suit you up front, I couldn’t really turn it down despite being very comfortable at Mansfield.”

“In my eyes it worked out for the best and now I’m just focusing on the future.”
“The win over Grimsby after we’d lost at Mansfield, was very big. I’d described it to some friends and family before the Mansfield game that as we’d been playing well, you could forget where we are in the table because we were unbeaten in four.”

“But as soon as we lost, I reminded myself that we are actually in a dog fight down near the bottom - it takes a lot out of you after losing a game and forget about it as soon as you can.”

“We focused on the Tuesday and got three points and then we did the same at Rochdale to stay out of the bottom two. Those wins have given us massive confidence going into next Saturday as we know that we are now capable of getting out of the situation and securing a mid-table place come the end of the season.”

“But we are going lose games as we go forward, so we have to make sure that we get over them as quickly as possible to focus on the next game.”
“The supporters are incredible - you wouldn’t think we’re where we are in the table! I know there’s been a new owner/plan/ambitions that’s got them going. But you can tell from previously playing at Priestfield and now playing for them here, there is a large support behind us and when they get going, it really does help and all I can ask is for them to keep trying until the end of the season.”

“As an opponent, it’s tough - I’ve been here a few times. When I came down with Mansfield, the Gills weren’t at their best time of the season but you could tell that they were close to being really difficult to deal with and play against.”

“Since I’ve been here, it is true that you can’t really hear yourself at times when the Rainham End really gets going and that has been really huge for us.”


Gillingham's George Lapslie on life after Mansfield and a reunion with former Charlton coach Johnnie Jackson as AFC Wimbledon head to Priestfield
kentonline.co.uk, by Luke Cawdell, 24 February 2023

George Lapslie has added a goal threat to Gillingham from midfield and on Saturday comes up against a manager who helped develop that killer instinct.

Lapslie - who has scored two goals in two starts for the Gills - worked closely with visiting AFC Wimbledon boss Johnnie Jackson when the pair were together at Charlton. The midfielder progressed through the youth ranks with the Addicks before playing in their first team and moving onto Mansfield in 2021.

“I love Jacko - he’s a great guy,” said 25-year-old Lapslie. "It will be nice to see him!

“He gave me a lot of time when I was at Charlton, I spent a lot of time with him, working on arriving late in the box because that is what he did in his career.


"He will probably be hoping I can’t get on the end of one on Saturday, but we will see."

Lapslie’s first experience at Priestfield was for Charlton, winning twice. He was back with Mansfield earlier this season and enjoyed another win.

The two games he’s played for Gills at ME7 have also seen him enjoy victory. He’ll be hoping that good run continues this week - as the Dons’ weekend visit is followed by Bradford City on Tuesday.

“Maybe it is a good stadium for me,” he said. “Every time I have been here as a player I have won so it’s a good place for me so far.”

Gills fans have certainly preferred seeing him perform for them at Priestfield.

“When the fans are behind you here they drive you on and it makes a massive difference,” he said.

Lapslie moved to the Gills in mid-January, leaving a club pushing for promotion in League 2 to join one battling against the drop - but the player had much to consider.

Moving back closer to his family in Brentwood was key, as was a two-and-a-half year deal put to him by the Gills. He was out of contract at Mansfield this summer. His former team are in great form, pushing for automatic promotion.

“Location is a big thing for me,” he said. “I am living an hour away and I have a little girl and even the month I have been here she’s spent more time with the grandparents than had we stayed up there.

“Also as a family, security is a big part of it. Gillingham were quite keen to get me down quick and all round everyone won, Mansfield got what they wanted, they got some money - I would have left for free in the summer - Gillingham got a player they wanted and I am happy with the contract.”

Lapslie was back at Mansfield recently, chatting to his old supporters at Field Mill and handing one pleased youngster a shirt. He has plenty of happy memories of his time there and no regrets about leaving a side pushing for automatic promotion.

He said: “I left on good terms with the manager and the boys, the decision I made is a lot more than just being near the top of the table or the back end of the table, I have a family to think about, I don’t regret my decision.

“I have nothing but love for that club, they took me in and made me a part of it and I was really happy there, but I have come here and been taken in just as well. Both clubs have looked after me fantastically and I am very grateful.”

Lapslie, together with his partner and daughter are back in Brentwood, living with his mum for now until his old house is sold. Having his family close has certainly helped him settle in quickly - rather than staying in a hotel as he did during his first six months at Mansfield.

“I get to go home and see my family rather than going home to a hotel, this has meant it's been a lot smoother transition than at Mansfield,” he said.

“I get so much support from my girlfriend, the little one and my family. I’m so grateful. Knowing I have that support meant the world to me.”

Since arriving at the Gills the club have started to put relegation fears aside during a great run of form.

“I knew we would be competing in every game,” he said.

“I am not surprised with how we have been going, especially seeing training and how much the staff are preparing us for games, it is not a surprise the results we are getting.”

Lapslie was also asked about his shirt number - 49. He wore 32 at Charlton and Mansfield but that wasn’t available at the Gills - taken by fellow midfielder Josh Chambers. The days of the month of his birthday, his girlfriend and daughter made 49 so he went for that!



Latest | February 2023