I thought I’d wait for the Doncaster Rovers game before writing this Headitorial because I was hoping the Gills would get their season back on track. Unfortunately it simply confirmed what we’ve all suspected for weeks, simply that the current team aren’t very good and even in a poor quality division their only realistic goal left for the season is to avoid relegation.
With nineteen games remaining and the Gills in 15th spot, six points above the drop zone and now an unrealistic ten points shy of the play-offs the Gills need a further 18 points to reach the magic total of 52 which usually guarantees safety even with our less than healthy goal difference… so the bottom line now is simply one of survival. That thought is hardly going to quicken the pulse of the 6,000 remaining home fans that are gradually losing what little faith they had left in the team. Genuine question marks are also being raised for the first time about Jepson’s ability to turn things around because he has watched defensive howler after defensive howler for six months down and seemingly done feck all about it. The players at his disposal might be third rate but most fans would agree that had Tony Pulis been at the helm they would at least have some semblance of organisation by now…
There was also the odd call for Scally to go from the Rainham End on Saturday (amid heated exchanges between fellow fans), the only argument deployed in his defence being that “who else is there?” Well given we’d never heard of Scally until he took over in 1995 the answer is we don’t know. Various rumours have done the rounds but nothing concrete as of yet to report doesn’t mean that our there isn’t someone who could do a better job… Even if we do limp towards the end of the season and retain our status it won’t solve the financial crisis surrounding the club and it is hardly going to see a stampede to renew season tickets that will leave Scally with some delicate calculations to make. If he puts prices up sales could collapse but we do need to increase income from somewhere just to pay the bank interest payments and given we are trapped in a downward spiral that isn’t going to come via increased attendances due to success on the pitch anytime soon.
It is all pretty depressing really, news on Scally’s grand plan for a new stadium remain as vague and as ambitious as ever, the “announcement” before the end of the year has now become some movable feast, latest date March but cynics amongst us (now approximately 99% of regular fans) aren’t exactly waiting with bated breath. Given Priestfield holds 11,500 and crowds average just under 6,500 there is no need to vacate our home unless any new stadium is going to have a team to match it. Scally puts a whole lot of faith in the draw new stadiums have on potential fans but appears to forget the other crucial half of the equation, unless results are good the impact on crowds can be temporary, or in the case of Darlington with their ludicrously large ground, non-existent. Given all the money lavished on the Blues Rock and ancillary services in the Medway Stand which don’t appear to have brought the promised additional income streams in anywhere near the volume needed to justify the massive investment in the first place, tends to suggest he might not be the right man to manage an even bigger and riskier project. If it all goes wrong he can just fuck off back to Millwall but we can’t we’ll just be left with a ruined football club in so much debt even a hundred years of bucket shaking wouldn’t clear them.
Back on the pitch and at least Chorley has signed on for the rest of the season. There is promise of two new arrivals before the transfer window slams shut, but more importantly for our short term future most Gills fans will be hoping Matty Jarvis remains a Gillingham player until the end of the season. Without him an already limited attack would look even more toothless. Big bad Baz might have led the line well at Tranmere in a make or break game for him but he hasn’t even looked like scoring so far which given our comical inability to keep clean sheets (two all season!) isn’t a healthy combination.
So where do we go from here? The defeat at Yeovil was dispiriting, more defensive errors and lacklustre up front. Tranmere was just weird, the first ten minutes saw anarchy in our own six yard box, then an unlikely revival and a second half as good as anything we’d produced all season. Bournemouth showed a never-say-die attitude if nothing else and the Orient game had an exciting climax but the result masked some of the usual deficiencies.
With most of our remaining home games against teams from the top half of the division and most of the away games against those from the bottom half we might have to start picking up more on our travels if teams like Oldham and Doncaster are going to come down to Priestfield and stroll off with all the points. Whether we can do the same to the likes of Cheltenham, Rotherham, Bournemouth, Northampton, Huddersfield and Chesterfield remains to be seen, but if the Millwall debacle is anything to go by then the answer is probably no… with three of our next four games away from home we really could find ourselves deep in trouble by early February, particularly if our Sky jinx – nearly seven years counting continues against Tranmere… not something that will fill any of us with anything but dread given our current form. Perhaps our best hope is that some of the teams below us are even worse, quite possible but hardly the stuff dreams are made of. At the moment being a Gillingham fan is anything but fun.
Up The Gills!