It’s been a long wait but Gillingham Ladies are pleased to welcome new signing Ellie Manning to the club.
Having previously played for Charlton Athletic and Millwall Lionessess, Manning has been training with the club until international clearance was received for the defender to enjoy a run out against Bedford on Sunday afternoon.
After a frustrating wait, the Gills debutant impressed with her intelligent reading of the game and attacking support as the club’s Reserves beat Bedford 4-1.
Was the wait worth it though?
“Definitely!” said Manning, “I needed to get the minutes under my belt for Priestfield next weekend and it was worth the three week wait.”
The 90 minutes with the Reserves served as a good initial test for Manning who revealed she enjoyed supporting the club’s younger team: “I really enjoyed playing with the Reserve girls. People normally think that Reserve teams aren’t as good as the top team but it really didn’t feel that different to playing with the first team on a training night.”
“I really enjoyed it and I think if we’d played better football throughout the whole 90 minutes, we’d have been on top for the whole game but with the goal at the end I think we let it slip a bit.”
Manning admitted, “I think it was my fault a bit and full back’s fault because we were pressing quite high but it happens and I still think we played a good game. Considering the defeat last week it was very good for them to bounce back from and nice for me to be a part of it.”
Manning demonstrated leadership on the pitch too and spoke of her desire to help support her team-mates throughout the season and certainly enjoyed helping her younger team-mates on Sunday.
“I do like talking on the pitch even if you’re not captain but I think a lot of the girls could have reacted to things in the game. Bedford were moaning throughout the whole game, so I was telling the girls to ignore it and play their own game and I think they kept their calm. We didn’t get any cards and we coped with it very well.”
Looking ahead to her first team debut and the chance to play Copeswood at Priestfield next Sunday, Manning confessed she feels a mixture of nerves and excitement.
“I was nervous for today – let alone play at Priestfield! I watched the game last week and playing in front of 351 people. That would be the biggest crowd I’ve ever played against apart from maybe one or two Millwall games, but it will be a really good game.”
Manning also spoke of the impact of the record-breaking crowd who came to Priestfield to support the girls and hopes for more of the same next weekend.
“It really gets the girls going. It’s good to have a big fan base to get behind you, get shouting at you and get you geared for the game.”
And although the first team had a weekend off from FA WPL action, Manning revealed there’s been no let up in preparations and the girls are geared to showcase their skills as fans are invited to watch the Copsewood for free.
“The girls were still doing fitness today, all of us turned up and they were doing sprints for an hour, so we do put in a good work rate!”
“The week we’ve had off has given us time to work at training and we can get things right, get our basics rights and I think Sunday will be a tough game so it’s good to have to weeks off and go for it.”
Despite only just being able to pull the Gillingham FC shirt on, Manning revealed she’s enjoying life at Gills thanks to the warm reception she’s been given.
“I’ve played against a lot of the girls, and there’s been quite a rivalry between Gills and Millwall – so I was nervous to come but the girls were all really, really welcoming. I’ve played with Tuney at Charlton so I know a lot of players from then.”
Having settled in, Manning’s ambitions are set on solidifying her place in a team undergoing a transitional season. With plenty of work and improvement to undertake, it’s a challenge Manning is set to take on with a smile on her face.
Ahead of the Copeswood game, Manning she and her team-mates will be focused on the week’s training ahead. Asked to pick out one area – Manning answered: “Work rate – we need to last the whole 90 minutes and I think simple football we need to work on. We do a lot of good passes and good play but there are specifics we need to work on.”
See how Gillingham Ladies’ week of training turns out this Sunday as they welcome Copeswood Ladies to Priestfield Stadium. There’s free entry for all fans – will you be there to roar us on?