In Praise of Rene Gilmartin
If there’s one thing this young man doesn’t lack, it’s patience. We first saw him when managed by Paul Merson, when he played a few games due to injury to Andy Oakes and before Joe Murphy came in on loan, although one of these games did at least allow him to show his talents to a wider audience when appearing in the televised FA Cup tie at Merthyr Tydfil.
He didn’t get an extended run of games but, then again, few players did that season due to the managers’ farcical, relentless tinkering with the starting eleven. In truth he was probably just a bit too young for a first team place anyway and a season in the reserves was what he would have expected to help ease him into the day-to-day doings of a professional club.
He might have expected to be in with a chance of some first team football in the 06/07 season but Dicky brought in both Clayton Ince and Bertrand Bossu for his attempt at bouncing straight back from relegation, thus leaving young Rene third in the Bescot pecking order. There were no tantrums, no bleating to the press and no demands for a transfer, just, seemingly a determination from the Irishman to get his head down, put in a shift and improve his game as much as possible.
During the o6/7 and 07/8 seasons Clayton Ince was outstanding and, I think, only missed a single game, leaving Berty to warm the bench and Rene to go out on loan to gain experience at a decent level. At the end of last season Bossu’s contract elapsed and wasn’t renewed. With no new ‘keeper coming in during the summer Gilmartin now found himself moving up to the position of Clayton’s stand-in.
Now, Clayton Ince is a big bloke in more ways than one. One of those players who acquired instant popularity with the fans, Clayton is physically a big fella, seemingly with a personality to match and with a sizeable aura about him for good measure. In other words, his are big boots to fill and Rene now has the chance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that he try to BE Clayton, just that the opportunity to fill that large space, at least for a while, brings with it certain expectations. For the last two seasons we’ve become used to a ‘keeper who dominates his defence, isn’t afraid to shout at the back four when he feels it’s needed and has made the penalty area very definitely his own personal territory.
When Rene came in for the Peterborough game a few weeks ago, with Clayton away on international duty with Trinidad & Tobago, there seemed a great deal of nervousness between he and the back four, not helped by Posh taking a very early lead and then out-playing us from beginning to end. He conceded two goals, neither of which were down to him but the experience could well have dented his confidence. He knew Clayton’s absence would be a relatively short one and that he’d be back on the bench once Incey returned. Would he view his short first team tenure as a missed opportunity?
Not judging by the performance he gave against Swindon on Saturday. He did just about everything right in giving a performance of which Clayton himself would have been proud. He commanded the area when it came to claiming crosses, showed excellent positional sense, communicated well with the back four, made a couple of very decent saves and a fair few ‘bread and butter’ ones and a ten foot tall keeper wouldn’t have kept out Paynter’s effort in injury time.
The biggest compliment I can give the lad is that Clayton’s absence wasn’t an issue and the fact that he was named man-of-the-match must have given him a nice warm, well-deserved glow to bask in over the weekend.
So, Rene Gilmartin, well played young fella and let’s have more of the same.
Of course, if he keeps up that kind of performance we’ll end up selling him – probably to Coventry City – and the ‘How will we replace Incey’ debate can then start again. Who’d support a small club?!