Carlisle United’s Prince Buaben can be a League One powerhouse within a fortnight, according to manager Graham Kavanagh.
The midfielder made his debut from the bench in last week’s 4-2 defeat at Bristol City, but Kavanagh thinks the former Watford man is still two games from full fitness.
Even so, Buaben could make his first start at Gillingham today.
As a former midfielder himself, Kavanagh is excited by what the 25-year-old Ghanaian can bring to his team.
He said: “He’s a big, powerful, 6ft 1in central midfield player who can play in a midfield two or three,.
“He can play on the left or right of a three, or as the holding player, but I think he is probably better in the wider positions.
“With the energy and running ability he has, he can be a real asset to the side.
“He’s aggressive in the sense he wants to get around people’s feet.
“He is two games away from being match-fit but we’re working hard on him in training.” Defender Conor Townsend is suspended after his fifth booking of the season against the Robins.
The defeat was only Carlisle’s second since Kavanagh took over from Greg Abbott and, having been delighted with how his players reacted to that, the Irishman is expecting another response today.
He warned: “Gillingham will be a tough team to play against.
“They have a new manager (Peter Taylor) and I think they’re playing a different style of football now.
“It gives us a great opportunity to bounce back from the weekend. They didn’t win either but it will take a while for them to get used to what they are now being asked to do.
“They look to get the ball down and play into midfield and I’m sure they’ll have worked hard all week on that. Our mindset will have to be right going into the game to make sure we get a result.”
Carlisle have been a changed team since Abbott was sacked eight winless games into the season. Kavanagh thinks guilt was a factor.
“When Greg left a lot of players saw how upset he was and felt they had let him down,” said the former Sunderland and Middlesbrough player, who was Abbott’s assistant. “The players were very, very low so they were going to buy into fresh ideas. It just so happened we got the results, the confidence lifted and they could see the tactics were right.
“The lads have really applied themselves. The staff and the whole club have really pulled behind us.
“They’ve given us the work-rate we wanted, and the intelligence.
“We’ve changed a lot in terms of the way we prepared. We’ve trained for longer, done double sessions and video work.
“The main focus has been on building confidence and everybody doing their jobs. If you get results, the confidence grows.”
This is Kavanagh’s first job in management and with four wins and two draws from his opening eight games he has made a good impression. Unsurprisingly, he has enjoyed his new role, and the added responsibilities it brings. He said: “It’s been everything I expected and more. It’s a lot more than just football stuff. The days are very much longer but you feel very much alive.
“You have huge responsibility.
“When you are assistant manager you think you share a lot of that responsibility, but when you step up to be the manager you realise you don’t really.”
Gillingham have scored and conceded in all three games since former England under-21 manager Taylor took charge, winning one and losing the other two, all 2-1.
Kavanagh thinks the open style of football Taylor believes in could give the Cumbrians an opportunity.
He added: “We’ve seen in previous weeks when a home side comes out and plays we are capable of catching them on the counter.”