Well hello everybody, sorry about the delay, real life kept getting in the way of this latest issue but here it is and by golly what a lot has changed since the autumn! Most notably came the departure of Neale Cooper after five months in the hot seat. To be fair to him he inherited a tough situation, a squad bereft of confidence and quality still reeling from relegation, which in conjunction with the critical need to slash our wage bill and sign replacements for peanuts meant the quality of some of the new recruits was dubious to say the least.
Few Gills will shed a tear over the double-quick departures of Bullock (an absolute liability in goal not fit to lick Jason’s boots), Ashikodi (thuggish, no composure) Williams (wind-up merchant, cheat) and Hislop (never fit, lumpy drunk). Many were sad to see Cooper go, perhaps a case of the right man in the right place at the wrong time given his impressive CV, but he seemed progressively depressed and unable to cope with the increasingly alarming situation at the club both results-wise and financially.
It was a relief for all concerned when he left and no surprise to see Jepson take charge. He was the logical (and cheapest?) option and our form had picked up significantly since his second League game in charge which brought only total and complete humiliation at Colchester and a revolt by the travelling fans. “Sell them all on ebay” and “You’re not fit to wear the shit” was a heartfelt reminder to the criminally under performing players that if they weren’t going to play to their ability then they could all fuck off and we’d bring in a perhaps cheaper or less gifted replacement that cared.
It was certainly a defining moment… Scally wouldn’t have appreciated the anti-Scally songs but then the spectre of financial meltdown continues to haunt the club. Having just borrowed £200,000 from the PFA and had an embargo placed on transfers and with a continual lack of transparency the fans are quietly concerned. With no accounts published and no AGM scheduled the locals are getting restless.
On the pitch we’ve also had the 3-2 humiliation by a village team in the FA Cup and a long run (ten months) without an away win until the recent epic victory at the Liberty Stadium. It has all been very traumatic with a pathetic inability to score away from home, let alone win and a suicidal tendency to implode in the closing minutes leaving many Gills fans deeply depressed.
The departure of Hessenthaler to Barnet (and Smith a second time, to Swindon of all people) and the retirement of Saunders finally ended the last links with the brilliant team Pulis assembled between 1997 and 1999. This really is now our “year zero”; we are having to start again from scratch (relying on freebies, loans and youngsters) but from amidst the debris of Burscough and Colchester, hope of a brighter future at least on the pitch is beginning to emerge.
Much of the credit must go to Ronnie Jepson. He says all the right things in public, his signings bode well, he is both realistic and yet ambitious, he appears to have the backing of the entire squad who are now fitter, more committed and better organised. That isn’t to say everything is hunky-dory because it certainly isn’t but perhaps at long last we have begun to turn the corner. Our home form has improved, we even reached the dizzy heights of 12th after the Swansea win, oh and we stuffed Swindon 3-0 on a splendid afternoon in January.
The green shoots of recovery might be fragile, administration would be an unmitigated disaster, but for the first time this season Gills fans are looking to the future and can see progress. It might be too late for a run for the play-offs and the drop zone remains too close for comfort, but what we have back at Priestfield now is faith, faith in our new manager and genuine hope that our players will halt the slide towards oblivion.