If you tolerate this…..

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.

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23 Responses to If you tolerate this…..

  1. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    I’m so glad I’m not alone! To be honest, three or four years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of missing the Cheltenham match, but the last few seasons have knocked the stuffing out of me. The thing that really pisses me off the most is that I know Scally doesn’t give a flying toss about any single one of us and I have a letter from the club to prove it. I wrote to him after the penultimate home game of last season as he kept gving away all of the seats in the Town End to complimentaries, forcing season ticket holders apart (it’s non-allocated you see) and into the Lego Stand. If I wanted to sit there I would have bought a ticket there in the first place you prat. All I got in return was ‘your coments have been forwarded’ (who to? I wrote to you Scally) and ‘hopefully next season there willbe more to cheer about!’ Bloody moron. I guarantee you that if there any complementaries where I want to sit on Saturday against Tranmere, you will have quite a good view from all sides of the ground of a fight between me and the Nazi stewards.
    Up the Gills!

  2. Andrew says:

    I could have written nearly all of that myself, except I go to hardly any games at all now, even at home. It took me two or three years and 13 away games to see my first win in the dark days of the early 90s, but if I picked 13 at random now I doubt it would be any better. Even in Medway, there are so many more enjoyable things to do than go to the Gills these days, home or away.

  3. MancGill says:

    Total and utter agreement with all the above. Unfortunately, being stuck in Manchester, I pretty much only have away games to go to, I haven’t seen a win since I moved up here nearly four years ago and my enthusiasm has waned to virtual non-existance.

    For a start an away match will cost bare minimum £50 with travel, food etc, you know we’ve lost before you leave the house and you waste your whole Saturday getting there and back. The usual defeat, combined with the futility of spending £50+ to have a crap time puts me in a foul mood which thereby ruins Sunday too. I just don’t care anymore.

  4. playupbrompton says:

    Yes, that pretty well sums up my views as well and the trouble is, much as you try to tell yourself you don’t care any more, the simple truth is that you do. Even if you don’t go to the game, you find yourself in front of the box being regaled by Jeff Stelling’s statistics about our appalling away form, etc.

    The best thing about the last couple of seasons has been the huge relief when they ended, it was like having a great weight lifted. This season’s fragile optimism has already, after one league game and a narrow, if inevitable defeat, been replaced by the usual resigned pessimism. Of course, it is early days and we may turn it around, but it would be too painful to show false optimism only to see our hopes dashed again.

    On a slightly less downbeat note, in a sense, of course, we have been victims of our own (modest) success. For the Club’s entire history, up to 1964, we had languished in the bottom division, constantly seeking re-election, once unsuccessfully. Since that time, with the glorious exception of the 5 seasons from 2000/01 onwards, we see-sawed between the two bottom divisions. Now, anything less than the old second division will be seen as failure and, setting our sights higher is probably encouraging.

    That said, I also agree with the comments about players not being proud to wear the shirt and that is probably the most disappointing aspect of our current plight. Sadly, with agents and cash being the main influences on players (plus their wags according to Mr Keane, bless him), I can’t see us returning to the days of the good old honest pro giving his heart and soul to the club. In that respect, Hess really was one in a million.

    Well, that’s cheered me up, at least we’re having a great summer!!

  5. Louise says:

    Spot on article, and MancGill’s comment about spending all day and £50 to watch a match you just know we’re not going to win before it even starts sums up my feelings perfectly.

    I’ve listened to the two opening games on the radio with a sinking heart, but with relief that I didn’t travel. That’s a sad state of affairs. Here’s hoping things will improve this season and the fun will be back in supporting the Gills come next May.

  6. Bernard says:

    You’re exactly right.. i do think you’re a fair weather supporter. You can’t just ditch your team because “we never win away”. How pathetic. If that’s your attitude go watch Chelsea. You obviously are a Gills fan, as you clearly state you’ve followed us through our most turbulent times. I also acknowledge you have a family and a mortgage – so there are financial reasons for your decreasing willingness to follow the Gills. But you can’t just give up on the Gills because we’re not very good. If you do, you’re not a true Gills, or football, fan.

    And Andrew, “Even in Medway, there are so many more enjoyable things to do than go to the Gills these days, home or away” Please. I’m not even going to waste my breath on you.

  7. Binman says:

    In defence of Ed Head, given he has missed two home games in twenty years and attended virtually every away game for many years I hardly think he is going to bugger off to Chelsea now… Okay, so commitments change etc. but if the team were any good, or even showed any semblance of comitment to the cause he, like many other people would re-engage with the club. At the moment our wretched away from is just symptomatic of a wider malaise at the club. Four terrible years have ground everyone down. I wonder if Bernard attended every game home and away in 92-93 (no away wins in the League, 2nd bottom of the League). We were there, now Ed Head feels he’s done his time and will only bother with away games when the players show signs they give a flying fuck.

  8. Jon says:

    Absolutely spot on. I feel the same… I don’t have a season ticket anymore as I work Saturdays, but that I’m missing games is affecting me less and less all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I will get to as many games as I can, but it still doesn’t mean I’m happy with anything… It’s more the chance to catch up with my mate… Well, that and they are my bloody team and I’m stuck with them.

    Like the author, I genuinely do believe the last two years have been the worst I have ever seen… I only have vague memories of the games in the Flanagan and Roeder eras, but the memories I do have are positive ones (I remember Robbie Reinelt scoring and doing some bizarre celebration in front of the RE)… Probably the folly of youth, I guess. But I honestly can’t think of a game I’ve enjoyed under Jepson… And I saw two of the three away wins last season!

    The passion has gone, I don’t feel like any connection with the players like we did in the Pulis era. The “Us v Them” mentality is long gone because ultimately it means nothing to the players that they are playing for Gillingham Football Club, with maybe one or two exceptions. Even the local lads who really should care don’t convince me.

    I’ve never rated Jepson, but I’m trying to let him have a clean slate this season… He’s not making it easy for me so far.

  9. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    I wondered how long it would take some one to attack the author of this piece, so well done Bernard for being so short sighted. How come there is a large section of our support who can’t accept any form of criticism towards the club or consider that people can be Gills fans and not be hapy with the curretn state of affairs? I have been going since 1985 at home, and went away from 1992 – 2005 regularly, but won’t ever get involved in the sort of “I’m a better fan than you” debates. It’s so irrelevant: we all support Gillingham, but the fact of the matter is that it completely sucks to do so at the moment. It is supposed to be fun after all! However, we’ll all be there on Saturday hoping for a win and a decent performance. Up the Gills!

  10. Bernard says:

    I’m not getting into a “i’m a better fan than you” debate in the slightest. The author is, as many of you clearly are, loyal fans who have stuck with the gills through thick and thin. All i’m saying is, just because we’re poor, and have been for four years, is not a reason to stop supporting the gills.

    I just hate fickle football fans, and to stop supporting your team falls into this category. Take the idiots who are wanting Jepson out. Granted, he’s not great, but can we do any better? Give him a chance this season. Were you baying for his blood when we went 6 games unbeaten 2 years back? He’s got pretty much a whole new team. How can we expect instant success?

  11. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    It’s not about not achieving instant success this term, it’s about a build up utter misery over the course of several seasons. This is brought about by the players, the manager and the chairman, all of whom, right now, don’t seem to give a flying toss about the mugs who watch them (me included!). I mean, on what planet does Scally think people are going to pay £15 to watch a friendly against Colchester? Or even £20 on the day to watch us versus anyone? We’re not stopping supporting the Gills, just not going to as many games until the people we support care too. As I said beofre, it’s meant to be fun, but supporting the Gills at the moment is very difficult and not at all rewarding. But I do agree that there isn’t actually anything more interesting to do in Medway!

  12. Bernard says:

    lol i know.. what a comment that was.

    and i completely agree with what you say about ticket prices. they are too high. but, at the end of the day, can you begrudge it? we need to balance the books somehow. equally, £40 for a replica shirt is disgusting.. but if people want one then they are going to be prepared to pay that. so fair play, charge £40.

    Granted, watching the Gills isn’t fun most of the time. But isn’t that what football, especially lower league football is all about? sticking with your team through the good times and the bad? People laugh when i say i support Gillingham. But i think the joke is on them. Supporting a team that you never go and watch is tragic. My office is full of Arenal ‘fans’ who have all the opinions in the world about their ‘team’ and football in general, yet never actually seen them play live!

  13. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    When I say that it is difficult watching the Gills at the moment, I don’t just mean the level of football. Of course lower division football is not as good as what you see on the telly, and it even appears to be worse than at any other time I can remember, but it used to be fun in other ways. There was the sense of belonging to something in the past, now I feel like I’m watching something that doesn’t care whether I’m there or not. The stewards are complete scumbags at the town end, Scally gives away all the seats I would like to occupy every week to complimentaries, he shut the top tier so he doesn’t have to pay for more stewards (thus depriving us of the better views), if I want to take my dad on the day it takes half an hour to queue up for a ticket, and on top of all that, buying tickets on the phone menu is OPTION 3. Isn’t that our bloody reason for being? This club doesn’t give a fuck about us, but we will continue to go and support the boys in blue, because it is our club at the end of the day, not Scallys.

  14. DirtieBertie says:

    I agree with most of what has been written. I gave up on long distance away games for a few years just picking a couple of more local ones occassionally. Then i found myself listening to Radio Kent or watching sky sports news. Once it is in your blood you can’t help yourself.
    Then towards the back end of last season i decided to do a few away games. Managing to get some cheap train tickets i was of to watch some pretty bad football. The 5-0 drubbing at Carlisle was bad, but the following weeks defeat at Rotherham had me more frustrated than ever. It did leave me asking was this the worst Gills team i had ever seen.
    It is with out doubt the worst since Paul Scally took over. So back to the dire days of Flanagan. From the side that nearly went out of the league would any of those players get into todays side that was playing in a league higher was the question posed on the way home. Steve Banks, Richard Green, Paul Clark, Joe Dunne, Gary Micklewhite would all have walked into last seasons team whilst Tony Eeles, Neil Smillie, Tony Butler and Paul Baker wouldn’t have worsened the side. The other thing about those players was you didn’t doubt there commitment and players like Smith and Dunne still remain favourites because of commitment rather than ability.How many of last seasons players could you honestly say were allways commited to the cause. For me only Crofts,Jackman, Bentley and Mulligan fell into that category,but what do you expect when your captain didn’t lead by example.
    After the defeat at Rotherham i tried to talk to Jepson. He totally ignored me as he boarded the coach but to Paul Scally’s credit he did come over for a chat despite the fact he knew i wasn’t in the mood to exchange pleasentries.He agreed that players weren’t giving 100% , and clearly wasn’t happy about it but said wait and see what happens at the end of season. I thought he hinted a Ronnie going but clearly i mis-read that.
    The clearout has happened. A new team was born last week at Cheltenham. Ronnie kept saying don’t read anything into the friendlies, it was all about being ready for Cheltenham. We spent £200,000 on a player for the first time in years. Most of the signings sounded like good ones to me. With optimism high i even had a flutter on us to go up. Then i get to the game. Our star signing is on the bench, therefore no better than 37 year old Cox. 2 players are clearly not fit enough to start the game do start( Graham and Lomas). I understand why they might not be fit enough, but why start them. We lose to a very poor Cheltenham side but the only people that get any critism from our manager are the officals.
    Why were we so poor before the sendings off? Why weren’t we ready? Why do you spend £200,000 on a player and not put him in the team? All these questions have not been answered by Jepson this week.
    I think we need rid of Ronnie and bring in someone like Terrnent who had the players and fans believing. We need fresh optimism and Ronnie can’t do it. If he can’t get a team ready in 6 weeks,what is he going to achieve in 4 days. Paul Scally has made the money available this summer and tried to get rid of the players not commited. Now we need a manager who can take us forward, and start enjoying those away days again

  15. Bernard says:

    I know this is pretty out of the blue..

    But why does everyone seem to rate David Graham so much?

    I thought he was a lumbering carthorse against Charlton and was shocked when i found out we had signed him. I was even more shocked when i got to Whaddon Rd to find out he was partnering Delroy!

    He might be able to hold ht eball up well, but so what? Mulligan and Facey are good at doing that.

    I’ll give Graham a chance by all means, but he hasn’t impressed me in the slighest so far. Deroy and Mullers all the way for me. Delroy’s still unfit, but once (if ever) he gets fit i reckon will be alright. Graham? Slow and passed it i reckon.

  16. Andrew says:

    I will defend my statement that there are more interesting things to do in Medway than watch the Gills. For the £20 or whatever it is that you pay on the day at Priestfield these days, I could:
    take my wife and son to the cinema or ten-pin bowling
    take my wife to Cosmo or somewhere similar for a whole evening
    spend several hours drinking in the pub
    visit one of the local tourist attractions
    spend several hours playing sports at the Black Lion
    buy several books, DVDs or CDs that I could read, watch or listen to more than once.

    For nothing, I could take my family to Riverside Country Park, Mote Park, Capstone, Queendown Warren, Shorne or Nashenden; go for a walk in the countryside all around us; or go out on my bike.

    These are just examples that I’ve come up with in as long as it took to type them.
    If football is the only thing that interests you, or you don’t have a family or want to spend time with them, fair enough. But for me, until the day comes when football represents better value for money, either because it’s cheaper or because it starts being fun again, I will not be a regular at Priestfield.

  17. MancGill says:

    Oi Bernard, you are an incredibly rude person aren’t you? Just because people have an opinion doesn’t give you the right to start gobbing off and calling people “idiots”. With a name like Bernard I would have thought you would be a member of a generation that had some manners and didn’t spout bile in all directions just because they don’t share your myopic view point.

  18. Bernard says:

    not rude at all.

    but why have an opinion on the gills if you don’t watch them? Andrew is clealry not a football fan. if he would rather shop or play sports in the black lion then he’s not a gillingham fan. he might have been around for ‘the lovell years’.. so what? you can’t pick and choose when you want to support your team.

    furthermore, you’re obviously living, or from, manchester so why should you be able to comment on a team who you rarely see?

    it winds me up. like that gills messageboard. everyone’s got their stupid negative opinions – but i’d say less than half regularly go to the games. and they’ll be the ones getting optimistic again when we win a couple. it’s pathetic.

    and my surname is bernard by the way..

  19. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    Andrew does make some seriously convincing arguements about other things to do for £20 in Medway though, You forgot about scoring some dodgy heroin outside Gillingham MacDonalds and fighting people in the Britannia though.

  20. MancGill says:

    “why should I be able to comment on a team I rarely see”

    Because they are my club, have been for 18 years, home and away, at the nadir, at our nirvana. Believe you me, I’ve gone through virtually every emotion possible whilst in support of this damn football club and have directed large portions of my income to travelling around in support of them, buying their crappy programmes, the shoddy kits etc etc. Be cause I love the club. Even though I live 250 miles away, and have other commitments I still regularly turnout to watch them play like a bag of spanners, under a manager who doesn’t seem to have the tactical nouse to implement change. As has been stated already it’s not that I don’t love Gillingham as a club anymore, it’s the lack of passion and caring from the squad, and the shabby way us fans are treated by the club that gets me. Yeah, turn up, give us your hard earned, we’ll give you 90 minutes of rubbish in return, and then ta-ta until the next time we need you to turn up, make a noise and give us more cash. If they turned up and gave us 90 minutes of pap every week, but played their hearts out, gave it their all, then fair enough, but they don’t even seem to care. It’s a very sad state of affairs this football club is in.

  21. Flagman says:

    Gentlemen…..

    I suspect that it is more a factor of our passing into middle age, that is a large factor in the change of attitude. I take some succour from the increase in the younger fans around the ground – not under 10’s with adults, but 14-16 year olds who have the passion in the same way we did at their age.

    Some of us have been going for so long that we have actually experienced just about all that can happen in terms of the lows and highs. I dreamt of the Gills playing at Wembley since 1969…the dream was fulfilled…TWICE. What happens when you have managed to climb your Everest?

    There’s little point in internal spats between ourselves, we’ve been going long enough to realise that any energy we have left should be directed to supporting the team on matchdays.

  22. Andrew says:

    Bernard, if I don’t meet your standards of supportership, I can only offer apologies and then not give a damn.

    Oi Flagman, I’m not middle-aged, I just act like it. I wonder how the teenagers can afford to go to games these days; in my day it were tuppence ha’penny a season or something. I hope that in years to come my sons might follow the Gills but despite some price reductions in recent times, I still couldn’t afford to take both of them to Priestfield at the moment.

    Besides, I don’t think modern football merits the hype and much of it doesn’t really stir the passions any more either. The quality on the field is probably much the same as ever, it’s the whole matchday experience that has deteriorated.

    BBLB, I’ll take your word for it on the merits of Gillingham High Street!

  23. Jack von Beeblehoffen says:

    Great post and agree with it all.

    Having read the additional posts from all of you (REGULAR supporter or not) we all have the clubs interests at heart.

    These aren’t the greatest of times and worrying that things have got to this state in such a relatively short time.

    How do we change it ? Scally or Jepson? The new signings? God i wish i had the answer.

    One thing is for sure we need to see some improvement soon on the pitch – surely it is a little easier watching your side through thick and thin if you knew the majority of your team actually gave a toss. Do they really care??

    I seriously doubt it but lets hope i am proved wrong soon??!

    Keep the faith!

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