Welcome to the first monthly Headitorial for BMH online. It might be a new and exciting era for us, well it gives us extra drinking time in the Blues Rock before home games anyway, but back on the pitch it the harsh reality of it all tends to indicate that it could well be more of the same for the long suffering Gillingham fans.
The pre-season confirmed what many expected, that the Gills would be fit, organised, determined but lacking in the goal-scoring department. We weren’t bad against United Arab Emirates in Le Touquet (the most surreal fixture ever?) and had our moments against QPR before giving a strong West Ham side a real run for their money but the limitations were still there for all to see.
With the all too predictable departure of star keeper Jason Brown to Blackburn Rovers reserves and mercurial top-scorer Darren Byfield (to Millwall of all places) all the optimism garnered by the magnificent six straight wins at the tail end of last season has been dissipated. The glorious revivalist atmosphere in the away end at Southend as we soundly beat the champions-elect could and should have been the moment where psychologically the Gills finally turned the corner after a traumatic few years and began the long road back to where we were five years ago. Unfortunately after a sudden and welcome bout of signing players in May nothing much happened over the rest of the summer except the signing of Jack as a replacement for Brown.
Certainly McDonald and Bentley look like being excellent signings and there are high hopes for Ndumbu-Nsungu, Jupp and Easton whilst people remain to be convinced one way or another by the ever willing but profligate Mulligan and the injured Jack. What we are left with is a reasonable first choice eleven but a tiny squad with little room for manoeuvre when the inevitable injuries and suspensions kick in. A great deal, perhaps too much, will then rest upon the shoulders of Matty Jarvis whose pace and daring wing play has the potential to run riot in what will probably be a mediocre division one more.
The first three games have certainly left many Gills fans scratching their heads in mild bewilderment as the team displays baffling Jekyll and Hyde tendencies. For the first 80 minutes against a fancied Huddersfield team the Gills were excellent, matching anything from last season. Bentley and Flynn excelled in midfield, McDonald was a livewire up front and Jarvis ran riot. All the pre-match moans and groans about crashed ticket office computers and lack of more signings were temporarily banished by the win although the last ten minutes were hairier than they really should have been.
Brighton away saw the Gills edge the first half but neither keeper was seriously troubled. The second period saw the supply to Jarvis cut and the Gills lose the plot. Curiously the Gills with their sporadic attacks created more genuine chances than an improving Brighton side but we failed to take ours and at the other end Brighton took advantage of a dubious decision by the linesman and edged ahead in a tight contest. It was a bit of a blow and left the travelling fans with a dull ache of déjà vu – same old story away from home…
The trip to Bradford summed up our season so far. For 40 minutes we bossed the game, scored two cracking goals, one an absolute screamer by the reborn Flynn and left the home fans booing their hapless side. Then we failed to clear the ball just before half-time, conceded a soft goal and ultimately lost the plot.
The final score of 4-2 flattered Bradford, Jack was clearly hampered by his injury, their equaliser was for a soft old penalty, their third a total blunder by Cox and the fourth deep into stoppage time with the Gills team all up the other end chasing an equaliser. It was an entertaining and open game but to lose so carelessly after such a bright start bordered on the criminal. The away jinx continues to haunt us… individual errors at the back will always cost us if we fail to take our chances at the other end.
With a modest (anorexic) squad and little money to spare further additions will probably have to be loan signings, but with such a schizophrenic start to the season it is still hard to decide whether this season will be a pleasant surprise or a depressing anti-climax.
Off the pitch and things don’t look too good. Failure to pay an electricity bill of £83,000 and getting the power cut off was both unprofessional and alarming. The subsequent demise of our aging computer system in the ticket office and the failure to fix the situation before the first home game of the campaign smacked of incompetence. There a lots of little signs that things are not quite right at Priestfield, the feeling of impending doom continues to circle the club and without a white night (Abramovic’s long lost younger and wealthier brother perhaps?) riding to the rescue we will have to soldier on.
The long term situation doesn’t exactly bode well, the debt remains a fundamental problem, but with the team still looking fresh and eager and the League table still in it’s infancy now is not the time to get bogged down in depressing discussions about interest payments, now is the time to cheer the Gills on and back the players in their bid to pick up points to establish the Gills in the top half of a table for the first time since 2000.
Just look at Colchester United for inspiration if you are already feeling rather blue, they were unfancied, they had a small squad and they lacked a consistent goalscorer. However through a combination of consistent hard work, organisation, passion and inspired management they shocked everyone in achieving automatic promotion against all the odds. At our best we are capable of beating anyone in this mediocre division, the end of last season and the showing against Huddersfield this confirmed that fact, but we also know that we are more than capable of losing to anyone too. The Bradford game illustrated the schizophrenic nature of the current team. It is now up to Ronnie and the players to prove to us, the fans, that they are capable of fulfilling their undoubted potential. Enjoy.
Up The Gills!