Hill up against a 'legend'

Romsey Advertiser: Richard Hill Richard Hill

RICHARD Hill wouldn’t go as far as to say he will be star-struck when he stands in the opposite dugout to Gatehead’s Gary Mills for Eastleigh’s FA Trophy second round tie at the Silverlake Stadium tomorrow.

But he will give the utmost respect to the opposition manager who he considers an absolute “legend”.

Given that Mills was a European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, he is widely respected in the game. But it’s his Leicester City links – and memories of Mills’s late father Roly – that set him apart in Hill’s book.

The Hinckley-born Eastleigh boss, who is looking to lead the Spitfires into the Trophy third round for only the second time in their history, said: “In my eyes Gary Mills is a Leicester City legend and his father Roly, who was a lovely man, was a director at Northampton Town when I played there.

“I don’t recall ever meeting Gary, but he played at Wembley three times for Leicester in the play-offs and I was there each time. We lost to Blackburn and Swindon but we won the third one against Derby County in 93/94 and got promoted to the Premier League.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Gary for what he did as a player and for what he’s doing now as manager of Gateshead.

“But, at the end of the day, we want to beat each other.”

Having travelled to Tyneside and watched Gateshead narrowly beaten 1-0 by Oxford United in the FA Cup, Hill took another look at them at Lincoln City on Tuesday where they won 1-0 to move eighth in the Conference Premier.

Both performances left a lasting impression on the Eastleigh boss who said: “I can’t stress enough how impressed I’ve been.

“Gateshead like to play football and they’re very good at what they do. Normally you come away from a game remembering one or two names, but I remember all 11 of them!”

Aside from Mills and his right-hand man Darren Caskey, who Hill knew in his Reading days, John Oster is the stand-out name in The Heed squad.

The attacking midfielder was capped 13 times by Wales and was twice involved in £1 million-plus transfers from Grimsby to Everton and from the Toffees to Sunderland. In March last year he was in the Doncaster Rovers side beaten 2-0 by Saints at St Mary’s.

Spitfires striker Yemi Odubade will be champing at the bit to play tomorrow, having left Gateshead to join Eastleigh during the summer, but Hill could have three big players missing.

Goalkeeper Ross Flitney is out with an eye infection, centre-back Dean Beckwith is struggling with a thigh strain sustained in the 3-0 win at Bury in the last round and targetman Craig McAllister left Monday training with a dead leg.

Flitney’s absence opens the door to ex-Saint Jack Dovey and Hill has every faith in the young man.

“Jack’s spent a lot of time observing, learning and working with Ross and this is his opportunity,” he said.

Eastleigh haven’t played a competitive match since Bury, giving Gateshead no opportunity to watch them.

But the Spitfires had a handy run-out on Tuesday against League One side Crawley Town where Hill’s good friend John Gregory has taken charge.

Hill, who assisted Gregory at Wycombe, QPR and in Kazakhstan, said: “We played at their training ground and they won 2-1. It was a good exercise.”

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