For the first time in two decades I seriously considered not renewing my season ticket in the summer. For at least the last four years (with the notable exception of the brief Stan Ternent era, when both the team and support seemed to regain their collective belief and it actually felt like something worth being part of) my level of enjoyment had decreased to the point where it has almost entirely fizzled out. In the end, the major reason for renewing was my desire not to lose touch with my mates, and the social side of things. It had little to do with the football.
Of course, everyone has their own reasons for falling out of love with their football team, and mine are many and varied. Some will strike a chord with others, some are more personal to me. As you get older your priorities change (ooh hark at him). When we first launched Brian Moore’s Head I was in my mid twenties. I had no commitments, no responsibility to anyone but myself, and if I wanted to spend large chunks of my disposable income watching an under achieving football team I could.
Now I am middle aged, I have a wife, two children and a mortgage. My income is more likely to be disposed of on a family holiday or a trip to the circus than it is watching a now chronically under achieving football team. This pattern is repeated across the nation, and is in itself enough to see many a regular supporter becoming a part time or no time attendee.
I don’t believe, however, than this in itself would have been enough to reduce me from a every game home and away merchant to the only going to home games cos I’ve got a season ticket and can’t be arsed with away games bod that am now. Clearly the fact that we have been utter pants for the last two seasons has had a major effect as well. I spent much of the last campaign postulating the argument that it was not the worst Gillingham team I’d ever seen – but you know, in hindsight I’m not so sure about that. Two decades from now I reckon we will look back on the 05/06 and 06/07 seasons as a dark period in the club’s history, to be placed lovingly alongside the Mike Flanagan era as a benchmark for mediocrity and mind numbing pointlessness.
So if you can still just about argue that the last two seasons do not represent the worst Gillingham team in terms of ability, there is one aspect where you would certainly be backing a loser in a debate if you chose to take the contrary view point. The 05-07 teams were the worst Gillingham team ever in the case of actually giving a shit! Most supporters are prepared to accept a limited player, if that player goes out and gives his all when he pulls on the shirt and steps out onto the not overly hallowed Priestfield turf. Someone like Neil Smith, for instance, was and always will be revered by the faithful, because you knew that he would give every last ounce of energy for every single minute he was on the pitch.
Fast forward to 2007, and step forward one Mr Michael Flynn. Arguably more skillful than the aforementioned Mr Smith, scored more goals, played at a higher level – but did he care one iota about playing for Gillingham FC?- no he did not. For much of the campaign he underachieved (apart from on the goalscoring front) but at the end of it he turned down a contract because he believed he was worth more (and he also believed he deserved a place in the Welsh squad – no, honestly, he really did!) That is the attitude that has crept into this football club, and has gone a long way towards putting us where we are today!This never say try attitude is another reason why I have found that I really can’t be bothered to waste my energy in supporting a team that seems so little bothered in expending theirs.
Now let’s talk away games. I can’t think of a better agrument for not venturing away from Prestfield than the Gills apalling away record in the last four years or so. I think I have seen enough pitiful away defeats now to last me a good few years ta very much. Been there, done that. Several times in the case of certain venues. Last season I ventured to a grand total of 3 away matches – the fewest I had been to in over 20 years. At the moment I have no immediate plans to watch any game away from Priestfield.
Ronnie Jepson – I try to like you I really do. I’m usually one of the last to jump on the manager must go bandwagon, and I think Rocket Ronnie inherited an unholy mess when he took over from Neale Cooper and actually managed to steady the ship pretty well. But I really am beginning to seriously question his judgement – notably in the decision to pay £200,000 for a central defender (and extraordinary amount of money in the context of Gillingham’s financial situation post ITV Digital), then not play him in the opening game in favour of a 36 year old who has been past his sell by date for at least 2 years (and that is being remarkably generous). Of course, you could accuse me of being wise after the event following Ian Cox’s dismissal at Cheltenham – but the sad truth is that the vast majority of the Gills support were wise before the event as well.
So to sum up, I am disillusioned with my football team for numerous reasons. Namely:
- I’m middle aged with different priorities
- The players don’t give a stuff
- We never ever win away
- The manager is not very good
That about covers it doesn’t it. I haven’t forgotten anything have I? Oh………. yes. Him. Our Chairman. I guess I have just been worn down by 12 years of Paul Scally. I’ve had enough of his bolshie attitude. I don’t even bother reacting to his bluster anymore (who remembers a 45,000 stadium with a sliding roof and a retractable pitch? The path to the Premier League anyone?) I have lost count of the number of clubs we are `never going to deal with again`. Or the players who have left under a cloud because of the spin on events engendered by Scally. I cringe with embarrassment at the memory of our Chairman getting the crowd to applaud the club’s lawyers after the Pulis court case (he really did that didn’t he, it barely seems credible!) I just have no time for him at all. All the time he remains I don’t believe this will ever truly feel like my football club. He is a destructive, divisive and negative force. But of course within days the result of the bank restructuring and the plans for the new stadium will be announced……….
Many people reading this may be thinking something along the lines of `Well sod off then you fair weather supporter`. Fine, you are entitled to your opinion. But here’s the rub – I have supported this club through some pretty foul weather too. Relegation, receivership, sub 2,000 crowds, almost losing League place, entire seasons without an away win and Andy Ramage in the team to name but a few. But I have never felt like this at any other time (even in the darkest moments). I would consider myself to be a hardcore supporter. Yet I came perilously close to jacking it in this summer. My shite tolerance level is at an all time low and I do not believe for one minute that I am alone in this.