Saturday 28 July – Gills 0-5 Charlton Athletic
Hooray, football’s back at Priestfield! At the start of a season for which Paul Scally has declared that anything less than promotion will be considered a failure, we at BMH have decided to burn our pessimistic pants and embrace the belief that we are destined for a triumphant season by focusing firmly on the positives. And the visit of our near neighbours and recently positioned supporter-thieving enemies gave us much to smile about. The new kit looked splendid, for instance. The rain has been good for the pitch. And it stayed dry for the entire 90 minutes, a fabulous achievement.
But in the interests of balance we should probably highlight one or two of the less pleasing aspects of the contest. We started off looking disjointed and deteriorated rapidly. The new look defence was pulled all over the place and looked every bit as ragged as last year’s. The midfield were utterly over-run and never came close to getting hold of the ball. We carried absolutely no attacking threat whatsoever. Had Charlton taken a few more of their laid-on-a-plate chances and not eased off in the second half we could have lost by eight or nine. And our new £200k centre back scored an own goal, was sent off and is now likely to miss the first league game at Cheltenham. But let’s not dwell on a handful of teething problems.
Friendly or not, should we be concerned about the most frightful clobbering I’ve ever seen us take in 30 years watching the club, or dismiss it as the sort of thing that happens when you play a fitter, more organised side with a lot of Premiership class? Sorry, the former for me. My immediate knee-jerk analysis is that we will lose every game for the next four years until we find our true level, which at the moment by my reckoning is one division above Dover. I had been thinking we were destined for a better campaign – we’ve strengthened the coaching staff, got rid of a few of the under-performers and brought in new players in the right areas. And of course it’ll take time to gel, but I’m alarmed at how much work there is to do before we kick-off in two weeks time.
Things have got to get better, and quickly. OK, Sodje looked robust in the challenge and was an attacking threat without neglecting his defensive responsibilities. Royce helped keep the score down and was helpless for the goals. Cogan showed a few nice touches, but neither he nor Brown ever got the ball. King – well, he struggled but I have high hopes. Facey looked off the pace, playing more like Delboy than Delroy, and Armstrong waned dramatically after the break. Graham had little support, and I lost track and interest by the second half when a few more familiar players were introduced. Who was Patrick? (I like the idea of a player with just the one name. Like Pele. Or Ronaldinho). Maybe the biggest question to be asked is why we’ve only played two first team friendlies at this stage of our preparations – there’s a hell of a lot to do in the remaining two games against Colchester and Welling.
“It was only a friendly!” many are saying as a few of us hysterically blow a gasket, and I appreciate that you can’t expect a bunch of triallists and loanees who have just met to compete against the likes of Reid, Holland, Todorov and Ambrose. And Weaver (who took his abuse with good humour – could he become the new Sean Gregan and turn the love-hate relationship round? I doubt it…). Ronnie was realistic in his comments afterwards and said the players will have learned a lot. I hope he has too, because quite frankly I’d rather not being paying money to watch this sort of bollocks.
The sponsors giving Simon King the man of the match award? Is it going to be another year for dark humour?
The Morty Vicker