Matt Gill admits he has not stopped smiling since returning to Exeter City in a loan deal lasting until January.
The midfield playmaker has been told he has no future at Bristol Rovers by their manager, John Ward, and when the opportunity arose to return to St James’ Park, Gill admits he jumped at it.
Gill was a key part of the Exeter team that won back-to-back promotions in 2008 and 2009 from the Conference to League One. He made 164 appearances, scoring 14 goals before leaving when his contract expired in 2009 for Norwich City.
He made 16 appearances at Carrow Road and had two loan spells at Peterborough and Walsall before signing for Rovers in June 2011. Gill has gone on to make 50 appearances for the Pirates, but after suffering a knee injury, he has been told he has no future at the Memorial Stadium.
With Matt Oakley facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury, City manager Paul Tisdale identified Gill as the ideal replacement to see City through in his absence. And when contact was made, Gill says he could not wait to get the deal concluded and return to Exeter.
“It is great for me to be back,” he said. “Ever since I knew there was a chance of it happening, there was a constant smile on my face.
“I am really pleased to have finally got it done and it all went through on Friday morning.
“I was sat in the office at Bristol Rovers waiting for Raddy (Mike Radford) to get the paper work through, but once it did, I drove up to Warwick University where the lads were training.
“I missed Robbo’s (Rob Edwards’) warm-up, which was probably a good thing! And then got down to some training with the boys, so it was a whirlwind 48 hours really.”
It is said that old habits die hard and that certainly seemed to be the case for Gill at Scunthorpe when he came on as a substitute in the 69th minute. The veteran midfielder fitted seamlessly into the midfield and looked as though he had never been away.
“That’s what Robbo said to me as well!” Gill said. “We were under the cosh a bit, they are the home team and were throwing everything at us, but it was nice to get on, especially for such a nice win as well.
“I probably couldn’t have asked to come on in a better situation than being 3-0 up.
“We went through some things on Friday and Tis went through some of the finer details on Saturday, so I had a good understanding. I have a good understanding of the team anyway, but he made sure and gave me lots of info – that’s how Tis works – and it did feel like I hadn’t been away.
“Sercs (Liam Sercombe) and Scot (Bennett) were two smiley faces when I arrived that I recognised, I played with Danny Coles at Rovers and I know Tommy Doherty. I played with Davo (Arron Davies) at Peterborough and John O’Flynn was an apprentice at Peterborough when I was there first time, 10-11 years ago.
“It’s great to see the faces again then, everyone has got a little bit older, Robbo especially, has a lot less hair now!
“But I have been really impressed with a few of the young lads here as well. Matt Grimes is highly thought of and I have seen a lot from him already in training, so I think it is an exciting time to join the club. Like I said, I haven’t stopped smiling and it just feels like perfect timing. And it’s great to back playing under Tis.”
Gill is expected to be involved again on Tuesday for the Grecians’ trip to Oxford United, a ground that holds many fond memories from his first spell at the club.
He turned in a brilliant display in the second leg of the 2007 play-off semi-final, setting up Lee Phillips' goal in a 2-1 win. Gill also scored one of the penalties in City’s dramatic shoot-out win.
“I have already had people sending me facebooking me about Oxford. I looked at the fixtures straight away, my wife, Bethan, wasn’t too happy with Scunthorpe away first up, but I was chuffed to have a night away from the kids and a night in a hotel!” he said.
“I am looking forward to Oxford though. I have been back a couple of times since, but obviously, nothing ever got as close to the atmosphere that night.
“It will be a good game and the lads seem to do well on the road, so it will be a good opportunity for us to go there and get some more points. But they are going very well as well this season, so it certainly won’t be an easy game for us.”
Perhaps the biggest decision Gill faces though is who to car share with. First time around, it was with his good friend Rob Edwards, who was also on the playing staff, but now he is management, Gill admits it will probably have to be with captain Coles and Doherty.
“There’s no bromance there any more! he joked. But Gill’s love affair with the Grecians is most definitely back on.
Exeter City (from): Krysiak, Pym; Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Gow, Davies, Parkin, Doherty, Moore-Taylor, Dawson, Gill, O’Flynn, Reid, Nichols, Gosling, Keohane, Wannell, Jagger-Cane, Parkin, Tillson, Grimes, Jay, Wheeler.
Unavailable: Butterfield, Oakley (both injured), Chamberlain (on loan to Bath City), Bergqvist (on loan to Welling United).