You became manager of Bath City in 2017. You also played for the club during your playing career. How are you enjoying football management and what do you view as the challenges of managing a club such as Bath City?
It is a great story which has come full circle really. I started out at Bath City and then went on to have a 14 year professional career. I have been coaching since 2010 and I had gone from the elite academy and I was delighted to have got the job at Bath City having gone through the interview process like all managers. It was not just because I played for the club and made over 200 games for the club. I got the job on merit and I had put in the hours and the graft to get into a position that I wanted to be in.
I would often coach academy players and get that buzz of coaching players. I am really enjoying being manager of Bath City and during my first season my biggest thing was to change the philosophy of the football club. Philosophy is not a playing style it is the full environment. No disrespect to the people that had been at the club before I arrived I just felt that the place needed at lift and we have done that. We have produced a ”Bath City Way” that has been successful.
We finished ninth in our first season which was great because we changed our style to a more possession based game which a lot of incision. We finished fifth last season where we unfortunately missed out on the play-offs. I enjoy working with the players and the biggest challenge for me is that we are part time and I can only get contact time with the players on a Tuesday and Thursday night and fortunately we use Huddle which is a video analysis tool where we interact and share points and decisions and players have the app on their phone. and the challenge is getting as much information across in a short space of time.
You have a five season spell at Birmingham City. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
I had a fantastic time at Birmingham City and I had a fantastic rapport with the fans there. Birmingham City are a working class club and the time that I went there Trevor Francis signed me from Yeovil Town in 1996. I had one of those seasons at Yeovil Town where everything had gone well for me. I also managed to get in the England Non League team and I scored 16 goals. A lot of clubs came in for me and I ended up signing for the club at Trevor’s house at Wentworth Golf Course.
I am grateful to him for taking me from Non League football and the unique and striking difference was that I was 27 when a made my Football League debut in what would be the Championship now. I made my debut towards the end of that season in 1999 against Swindon Town at St Andrews and I played up against Mark Walters a fantastic winger who played for Aston Villa and England.
I had a brilliant time at Birmingham City and I played near on 100 games for the club and I played some high profile games. One of the best games ever seen at St Andrews and people still talk about it now was the semi final of the Worthington Cup against Ipswich Town. A packed house and the place was literally shaking and Birmingham City are a fantastic club. I am also a member of their former players association so I try to get back and play as many charity matches as I can. To hear my name by chanted by the Birmingham City fans ( They used to use the Jerry Springer shout Jerry, Jerry!) that was my little tag and it was great. I also played with some great players Steve Bruce, Gary Ablett good rest his soul who has passed on. I became good friends with Stan Lazaridis who was a fantastic player. I am fortunate enough to look back with fond memories on five fantastic years at Birmingham City.
You played one season for Yeovil Town. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
Firstly there is a rivalry between Bath City and Yeovil Town. So its very much like going from Bristol City to Bristol Rovers or Birmingham City to Aston Villa so it was a big of a strange move to the division one down from the Conference Premier.
I wanted to progress in my career and Yeovil Town were one of those Non League clubs that were very famous. At lot of people new about them and they attracted a lot of crowds. The ex Tottenham Hotspur defender Graham Roberts was the manager at the the time when the club approached me and I had to make a football decision at the age of 26 and I knew something at the back of my mind was telling me that I would still go on to have a football career even though a lot of people at that time were telling me it was already too late and my chance had gone but I still believed that I would get a full time career. I was sold to Yeovil Town for £9,500 pounds along with a Bath City teammate of mine Rob Cousins.
I hit the ground running having predominantly been a right back and Graham Roberts quickly converted me into a central midfielder and I ended up scoring 16 goals in just the one season there. I remember we went on to accrue over 100 points and we beat Enfield Town with 9500 fans in attendance at Huish Park with another 1000 fans locked outside which for a Non League team was just phenomenal and it was a memorable game and a top of the table clash and I look back on that match fondly.
Trevor Francis also came to watch the game and I was invited up to Birmingham and I played three trial games against the reserves of Manchester United, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday and off the back of that Trevor offered me a two year contract. I like to find that I had a close affinity with all the clubs I played for, not just the staff but also the supporters too. Whatever team I played for I was a very committed player and I every time I pulled on the shirt I made sure that I gave it my best and I had one of those years at Yeovil Town turned out really fantastic for me and while at Yeovil Town I managed to get my move into full time football.
You mentioned Trevor Francis as a manager. I can imagine in your career that you played under some very good managers. Did you receive any advice or encouragement from any managers that you played under before entering into football management?
Yes, Going back to my playing career I took a little bit from all the managers that I played under. I was fortunate to work under some very good coaches and managers and they are all different in different ways. Some are good off the pitch coaches some are good on the pitch. Trevor Francis was still a good player even at 55 years old and still very gifted. Steve Bruce was a fantastic man manager.
When I look back at myself as a coach now the main influence was John Ward from my time at Cheltenham Town. He also managed Bristol City and Bristol Rovers and was very friendly with Graham Taylor at Watford FC. He was a really calming influence and he had such a good impact on me in terms of how you manage players in the game. He was very clear in the messages that he gave to his players and how his teams played.
I used John Ward as a mentor when I was turning 30 I started to think how I wanted to be as a coach and that is when I really started to learn the skill of being a coach and a manager He is also someone who I still speak to from time to time just to tap into their knowledge of the game and the experiences that have had. I saw Steve Bruce while on holiday in Portugal and we reminisced on the time we played together. He was my manager when I left Birmingham City after he we got promoted to the Premier League and I saw him as a player and a manager.
I have been fortunate to play with some great players and under some great managers but I am my own person now and you come up with your own mold in your own Jerry Gill way as a coach and a manager but also how the club wants to play and that is what we are currently doing at Bath City now.
Finally Jerry, You mentioned wanting to create a comfortable,winning environment. Could you elaborate on that and is there anything in particular that you would like to achieve in your career as professional football manager?
We do have a clear philosophy and a clear playing style. I have introduced a Bath City way. We have key messages around the stadium and in the dressing room which hopeful bring a winning mentality and an environment where people want to come and succeed.
I believe that patience as a person is very important and I find that more and more managing players is the bit which we have to work hard at and the bit that is the most difficult. You can be the best technical and tactical coach in the world but if your players do not want a relationship with you or you have not got a good relationship with your players you will find it difficult to get success. It works right through the football club so when you come into Bath City you will see a work ethic and you will see people there for the right reasons whether it is someone working in the club shop, kitchens or the groundsman we have all got the same DNA and the same attitude to coming to work and then also out on the pitch.
When I first arrived attendances were 600 they are now over 1100 so that tells you the product and I am proud of the fact the fans enjoy the team and we like to play a free flowing style of football and with our fan base behind us and a good structure and it has been very successful to date. I am very ambitious as a coach and a manager firstly I want to get Bath City promoted in future and I want to take the club to the next level. I want to be a full time coach in the Football League if I can.
I think that Bath City like the fact that I am ambitious and that I have players that are trying to learn improve and being successful themselves and that in turn can only bring success to the football club. Who knows what the future will bring James but we intend to work hard and we give our best single time we are representing Bath City football club.