Undrafted – The Network

Gillingham – The Panic Season?

Gillingham FC, my team. I have been a fan since birth (29 years). I had no choice in the matter due to the club running through our family, so I know nothing else but Gillingham.

Gillingham are not renowned for being an overly successful team, no glory hunters here, I have however managed to enjoy many moments of glory and success along the way. Most memorable amongst them are:

– The 2000 play-off final against Wigan, super-sub Thompson scoring the best diving header you have ever seen (not biased at all). Made even more a day of celebration due to the previous years Wembley heartbreak at the hands of Man City (and Mark Halsey of course)

– 2000-2005 surviving as a mid table side in the Championship (Div 1) for the first 3 seasons, followed by a relegation battle escape and heartbreak in 2005 where we suffered relegation by goal difference on the last day of the season.

– “Mad Dog” Martin Allen and his team of title winners in the 2012-13 season was one of dominance which is very rarely seen by Gillingham fans and thoroughly enjoyable to be a fan for.

Of course there are other memories but those three stand out from the crowd for me.

Credit: Getty images

However…those times are now out of sight in the rear-view mirror. Since 2013 we have managed to secure our place in League one, mainly as a mid-table side with the occasional flirt at either end of the table.

It has been said by many, especially recently, that in order for the club to move forward a change at the very top is required. Paul Scally saved the club from administration back in 1995 by purchasing the club for £1 by taking on the clubs debt himself, an action which had it not happened we could well not have a side at all. That being said, the year is now 2021 and looking at where the club as a whole is now the question I think would be asked by nearly all is, what is the plan from here?

We have been told a new ground is being looked into for years, we have also been told that Scally has been seeking investment in the club since 2008. As mentioned on a recent Pub Talk episode with ‘GillsintheBlood’ Matt, if you are still looking for an investment after 13 years then maybe you are doing something wrong. I cannot believe that zero investment opportunities have presented themselves, what I believe has happened is offers have been made but Scally has refused to not wanting to give an inch of the club away as part of any investment deal. The fixation on moving ground has in my opinion distracted him and others from the fundmentals of running a football club and over the years things have become extremely sloppy and in all honesty embarassing for us as fans.

To name a few:

– Never seeming to be able to release a replica shirt in the club shop on time
– Prioritising Whitney Houston tribute act night
– Selling out of date beers
– Overall communication with fans is poor and always has been
– Lack of Marketing and Advertising effort in the Kent towns has led to huge missed opportunities to attract new fans
– Season ticket holders treated as revenue and not fans, no real incentives for returning and recent refund treatment is dreadful
– Not opening the Factory club until this week, losing out on revenue from fans attending match days.

The pandemic has of course had an impact on all clubs but I do fear that this season is a huge one for us in that should we face a relegation battle and suffer the drop into league two, the escape from there I feel would not be an easy or quick one.

I have always been a supporter of Scally throughout all of the calls for him to leave but I have now come round to the thinking that things could be done better and quite frankly should be done better. Yes he saved our club and we are grateful for that but it does come to a point where you have to look around and think, is this really the best the club could or should be. For me when I do that I cannot help but think that the answer is no, it is not currently in the place it should be.

They say be careful what you wish for but at the same time you cannot stick with what you know doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. The time for change seems closer than ever before and I can only hope that we survive in League one this season and a new future can then be built for the club, be that with Scally at the helm or without.

The club belongs to the fans and nobody else.

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