September began with the Scunthorpe debacle and enthusiastic calls for Scally to go from much of the ever-shrinking Priestfield faithful. When the dust had settled from the fixtures that weekend we found ourselves in 23rd position above only Rotherham in the table and genuine fears of another traumatic relegation campaign began to haunt us all. Amazingly eleven days and three wins later we were 12th and life looked if not exactly rosy then at least less fucking horrible.By the end of the month post-Scunthorpe we’d racked up four wins and a draw in six games and had managed to score thirteen goals into the bargain but still things don’t seem quite right. We still don’t have a settled defence, Cox and Johnson in combination are an accident waiting to happen (even Sancho’s biggest critics are missing him) and the void left by Jason Brown is yet to be filled. Jack is still injured, Randolph wasn’t up to it and Flinders might be a good shot stopper but is prone to some alarming howlers…
The result of all this is that we still haven’t keep a clean sheet this season. We only scored the last goal in a game for the first time against Cheltenham last week at our thirteenth attempt and haven’t managed even a point in any game we have gone behind in since Blackpool in May!
Curiously the record books will show that at this same stage of the historic 1999-2000 season the Gills were in 12th spot with sixteen points from twelve games having scored nineteen and conceded seventeen, we have collected one point more and scored one goal less in comparison but unfortunately the goals against column is less encouraging (21 and counting, the second worst in the entire division). Back in the autumn of 1999 the Gills were still mentally recovering from the Wembley heartbreak and the controversial departure of Pulis. Peter Taylor was only slowly winning over the sceptical fans after an unconvincing start and Super Bob Taylor was in the middle of his astonishing one-man goal of the season competition that ultimately saw him sold to Manchester City of all people only a few weeks later.
Seven years later and the future doesn’t look quite so bright despite the encouraging precedent. The current team do not compare favourably with class of ’99 – only Matty Jarvis would have made it into the previous starting line-up and if the rumours are right he’ll be off to Tottenham, or Arsenal or Villa in the January transfer window as quick as Scally can say “show me your money” which would be a crying shame because without him our attack is to put it politely one-dimensional.
Even the run of better results has been more than a little traumatic, we had to hang on with ten men at Doncaster having contrived a freak own goal (easily our gutsiest showing thus far), nearly threw it away against Millwall, got totally annihilated at Oldham, conceding the silliest long range goal in recent history into the bargain (Flinder’s will be having nightmares about Charlton’s long punt for years to come), and capped it all with the stupidest fuck up anyone can ever remember…
Against Orient it was embarrassing, it was so easy, we were 3-0 up, Jarvis was running riot, they couldn’t cope and 5-0 wouldn’t have flattered us. Then with thirteen minutes to go Flinders concedes a needless penalty. 3-1, still no need to panic, to professionally see-out the game, but oh no, we can’t even manage that against easily the worst team we’ve played all season. Suddenly the nerves went, panic set in at the back and we allowed their fullback, their fullback (!!!) to score a remarkable triple inside eleven minutes. It shocked and stunned the large and previously vibrant travelling support, some chanting “what the fucking hell was that?” at the end. I don’t think Jepson knew the answer to that one!
Victory over Cheltenham looked simple enough on paper but we spent the entire afternoon in a defensive muddle, had the visitors possessed even a modicum of finishing ability they would have buried us… so thus far the campaign remains unconvincing. It really is a schizophrenic team, you don’t know which “Gillingham” will turn up, even during games! Clearly when Jarvis is on song we are capable of beating anyone in what is a dreadfully mediocre division, but when the supply line is cut the likes of Mulligan, Ndumbu-Nsungu, MacDonald and the new comic turn Baz Savage aren’t going to trouble even the leakiest defences. A the other end Cox and Johnson’s all too realistic impression of Gary Breen and Tony Butler at their most confused in 92-93 means that the opposition will always have a chance, particularly with a Brown shaped chasm in goal.
So the Gills fans remain in limbo on the pitch, veering from euphoria with each glorious Jarvis goal to head in the hands misery with another careless goal donated to grateful opponents… Off the pitch things remain unclear too. Scally’s promise of financial “restructuring” does not fill many people with confidence, rumours that the “restructuring” actually involves Priestfield being signed over to the bank to clear the debt and the Gills having a couple of years grace before they have to move out persist online and in private. Clearly that would be a catastrophe for the medium and long-term future of the club if any relocation scheme then failed (hands up who has 100% confidence in Scally’s ability to deliver that one? – thought not!) with us no longer owning our own home. We should hear one way or another before Christmas according to our leader, but then he’s promised much and failed to deliver many times over the past five years, so it is back to limbo for everyone for the time being… Perhaps some rich crazy foreigner would like to come in and make an offer even Scally couldn’t refuse… we can but dream!
Up The Gills!