Start As You Mean To Go On….

I think we are all agreed that this hasn’t been a terribly promising start to the season. In fact, it’s been claimed that it’s our worst opening spell for 34 years’ following defeat in the first six games of the 69/70 season. My memory’s pretty good (the punctured pre-season optimism engendered by calamitous opening games is firmly ingrained on my brain, it’s happened often enough and can be devastating on a young mind which naturally assumes promotion is overdue despite significant evidence to the contrary, as mine tended to in the late 70s), but it only stretches as far as 77/78. So I consulted the definitive and weighty tome “Home of the Shouting Men”, and I would contest that this year has witnessed the worst start to a season in our entire history.

 I cannot find a single example where we have lost our first four games – even in the 69/70 season we won 1-0 at Aldershot in the League Cup. Of course there have been many poorer runs, longer spells without scoring and losing streaks, but psychologically the longer it takes you to clock up your first win of a campaign, the more you want to top yourself / find yourself no longer caring (delete depending on how much perspective you have). We lost four of the first five games last season, but the opening day win over Huddersfield was enough to buy everyone a bit of time.

Statistics can tell you whatever you like, but in 2007 it’s not just the results that have been terrible from the off – the performances have matched the results and offer absolutely no hope that the side is going to gel into anything other than a plodding blight on the footballing landscape. We can blame red cards and penalty misses but Ronnie’s post-match comments have already started to smack of desperation. None of us really believed Scally’s bluster about promotion, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad and I don’t care if we’re only four games in, we’re in serious trouble. It was obvious even from the Charlton friendly – vastly superior opposition and a lot of new team-mates introducing themselves to each other, but friendly or not, it was the worst I have ever seen any Gillingham team play and made me very worried. 

Let’s compare this year to previous years and see if we can cheer ourselves up :

2000/01 First four league games L L D D (League Cup W) – we didn’t exactly expect to burst out of the blocks in the first year in Division One, but despite the goals leaked against Stockport and Tranmere there was enough belief and strength in depth to prevent panic. We beat Wolves 1-0 in league game five, final position 13th

1999/00 L L D D (League Cup W) – scepticism over the new manager, an injured Asaba, off-the-field turmoil and a half built stadium provided a tetchy backdrop, but expectations weren’t unduly dented as with the class of Taylor, Hess, Smith, Ashby, Pennock and countless others we were hardly in the position we’re in now. First league win was scrambled against Oldham in the 6th game, but we never looked back.

1998/99 L D D D (LC L). A terrible start to the campaign, particularly lame in the light of narrowly missing out on the play-offs the previous May. But we had Pulis in charge, and we knew he would gather the ranks to sort out any problem. Scally gave him £600k to spend on Asaba, Bob Taylor got match fit and after a second defeat in early September we didn’t lose again until the New Year. Final position 4th

1993/94 L L D D (LC W). A dispiriting opening two games (0-2 v Chesterfield at home and a dreadful 0-3 at Rochdale), and it was seven games before our first victory, but even then we beat Brighton (a division above us) in the League Cup and remained unbeaten in seven games after the Rochdale pasting. Final position – a dull but safe 19th

1992/93 L L D W (LC W). Officially the worst post-war Gillingham side in terms of league position, but we could count ourselves genuinely unlucky in our opening games, losing to a last minute defensive cock-up on the opening day and a week later having goal-keeper Scott Barratt sent off at Bury before falling to a late winner. And Northampton were comprehensively despatched in the League Cup. It seemed worse at the time as, due to postponements following Maidstone’s unfortunate demise, the first win didn’t arrive until well into September. Final position – 21st (out of 22)

1989/90 D D L W (LC L). Some similarities to this year in that we couldn’t score (we were the last in the world to notch a goal, with two late strikes clinching victory at Hartlepool in the fourth fixture), and we were demolished over two legs by Orient in the cup. But the blinding difference was an over-reliance on youth in 1989. As opposed to 2007, where we have an over-reliance on ponderous old pros. That’s the beauty of young players – they can still run. Finished 14th

1985/86 L D W W (LC D). Only included as we suffered a similar disciplinary meltdown, having both Terry Cochrane and Peter Shaw dismissed in our first two fixtures. But again, it was frustrating rather than the end of the world and we stuck about in the top three nearly all season. Final position : 5th

1983/84 L L W D (LC L). Defeat in our first three games, but excused by an alarming injury crisis which accounted for a 4-0 clobbering on the opening Saturday at Sheffield United, and a narrow defeat at Priestfield in the League Cup by newly re-invigorated Chelsea. Again, the key was the faith in both the playing squad and the manager. Never any need to get the worry beads out, final position 8th

1978/79 D D D L (LC L). A depressing opening, including defeat in both legs against Reading in the cup. The lack of flamboyance meant no-one saw the season panning out as it did – if one of those draws had been converted to a win we would have been promoted. The first win didn’t arrive until the seventh game, final position 4th.

1974/75 D L L L (LC D). We actually only won one of our opening 15 league and cup fixtures, but the arrival of Peter Feeley revolutionised the campaign. More turmoil with the arrival of a new manager, but Gills were adapting to life at a higher level, we just took our time doing it. Final position : 10th

1969/70 L L L L (LC W). Six defeats on the bounce isn’t an ideal start, and by Christmas we had just 10 points from 22 games. But we stayed up and reached the 5th round of the FA Cup. And in terms of the first four fixtures, we won 1-0 at Aldershot in the League Cup which statistically means it was better than this year

Even when I checked back to the depths of the 30s and 50s when we were forever being threatened with expulsion from the league for being bewilderingly and consistently rubbish, I couldn’t find a campaign where we lost our opening four competitive games. The worst start was probably the Fourth Division 1961/62 season, when after a worthy 2-2 draw with Doncaster on the opening day we went on to lose our next nine games, including a 4-1 dumping at The City Ground in the League Cup.

So – which side are we resembling most at the moment? If anything, none of the above. The last time I saw Gillingham so lacking in ideas, so ponderous without even a stable defence to rely on was 1988/89. Even then we were blessed with the skill and influence of Gavin Peacock and the instinct of Steve Lovell, who could snaffle a hatful from scrappy half-chances regardless of the paucity of his service. Yet that side looked doomed from the Autumn onwards.

So any omens? Any cause for optimism? There’s always Sunderland from last season, who got trashed in their first four games and were ousted from the League Cup by Bury. Of course Niall Quinn realised his limitations before it was too late, sacked himself and brought in Roy Keane…..

The Morty Vicker

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24 Responses to Start As You Mean To Go On….

  1. wildwebman says:

    The one thing about 1969/70 that always stood out was we only seemed to win at home on a weekday. Saturday games were defeats or draws. We also won as many away as at home. The first home win was against Bristol Rovers (on a Wednesday) and that was an own goal (Scored at the town end by someone call Lynsey – Parsons maybe???) – although in the records it was awarded to Gilbert. We missed relegation but the next season we were rooted to the bottom from the start.
    1974/75 season was dire. I hated the new manager who had replaced Andy Nelson because the football was so negative I was so happy when he left for Sheffield Wednesday

  2. Bernard says:

    Probably the saddest article i’ve ever read. Anorak.

  3. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    Bernard, why do you bother looking at this site? I’m surprised you didn’t claim it was the view of a fairweather supporter, and that, up until now, you’ve really enjoyed the fare served up by the retards pretending to be the Gills.

  4. Bernard says:

    I go on the site to read match reviews of the games that i have gone to, simply to compare it to what i’ve seen.

    Usually it’s incomparible.

    This website is written by typical Gills fans. We’re brilliant if we win, we’re in the shit if we lose. Jepson’s not so bad when we win, he’s got to go if we lose.

    It all makes me laugh.

  5. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    I beg to differ on that one Bernard. Football fans are generally fickle by nature, but even when we won last year we all knew Jepson was a crap manager. Only one home game last year was anything like a decent performance – Bristol City. Even when we won you could still point to Jepson’s major failing – substitutions. Take the Tranmere home match – 2-0 down so Tranmere make tactical and player changes at half time, completely overrun us after the break and were unlucky to go away defeated. What did Jepson do to change things in the second half? Bog all.
    So far you have displayed loyalty that is certainly comendable, but more than a little short sighted if you think everyone will love Jepson should we defeat Walsall on Saturday. The guy sucks and can barely even speak English. That FA Coaching badge he’s got must be easier than passing GCSEs!

  6. Jon says:

    To be fair, Bring Back Les Berry, I can already hear the Jepson sympathisers commenting how he didn’t have any options on the bench to change things against Tranmere.

    They, of course, are overlooking the fact that it’s his bloody responsibility to sort out having decent options on the bench.

    I think my favourite pro-Jepson comment so far is that “it’s too soon to sack him, but if we still have no points after 10 games, then he should go”. So if we had one point by then, people would be satisfied???

    The only problem we might have is that Scally may not fire him (he said last year when we were struggling along in 18th that he thought Jepson was doing a “decent job”), and I don’t think Jepson is man enough to admit that he’s just not bloody good enough.

    Thing is though, Stan Ternent came one game too late in 04/05. I just hope that we’ve learned from the mistake.

  7. Sy says:

    Bernard….I find your comments unnecessary.

    The writer has gone to a lot of trouble to prove that this is our worst ever season and I for one found it very interesting.

    You say you come on here to read match reports, if this site was just match reports I for one would get very bored with it.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but to abuse the writer by calling him an anorak, is not necessary.

  8. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    Thanks Jon – I was starting to think I was on my own. Whst people like Bernard fail to undrstand is that every single Gills fan was behind Jepson when he was appointed, but he has consistently proved that he is a complete and utter fuckwit.
    Like you say though, Scally won’t sack him. He’s a yes man, he’spresumably relatively cheap, and relegation won’t matter because the fans wall will save us!

  9. Jon says:

    Absolutely spot on mate. We all thought Jepson was going to be a good manager… We forgave the rest of his first season in charge, but I think people have lost all faith in him at various times over the past 12 months. I think I went about January-time, but, given the comings and goings over the summer, I gave him a clean slate on August 11.

    Then the teamsheet came in, Cox was starting and it was clear he had learned nothing.

    It’s not a knee-jerk reaction on the back of four defeats, it’s almost two years of crap football, players that aren’t good enough – or motivated enough – endless excuses and, more importantly, the manner of the four defeats thus far. I will NEVER criticise a Gills team that loses and gives their all. But at the moment they aren’t giving their all and it’s bloody hard to defend any of them.

  10. chrislynham says:

    Actually, of all the BMH crew, for me to be described as an anorak is something I should be proud of. I’m sure the Binman will rise to the challenge and do some kind of correlation between average attendances and an ability to win away from home….

    The Morty Vicker

  11. wildwebman says:

    Martin Allen’s available if anyone is looking for a new manager

  12. Bernard says:

    So Jon.. it’s Jepson’s responsibility to have decent options on the bench is it? You idiot. You don’t think he’s constantly looking for additions to our squad? You think he wants to have the bench that he had against Luton for the season? We’re dirt poor and Gillingham isn’t exactly an attractive option for a player to join, should the player have other options. Is that Jepson’s fault?

    I think people on here think i’m pro Jepson and that i will defend him to the back teeth. That’s not right at all. I’m just not anti-Jepson. To get on his case after 3 league games is absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, who will we bring in on our tight budget? Will they be better than Ronnie..? We all know it will be Iffy anyway. Great – the man that suggested Aaron fucking Brown.

    And to all you lot who keep using Cox as a scpaegoat.. Grow up.

    And to whoever wrote the article (Morty Vicker i presume), my ‘anorak’ comment was in jest. I was born way after most of what your article was discussing. Sorry if you found it offensive. Which in retrospect, it probably was.

  13. MancGill says:

    Bernard you are a contemptible shit. People like you are the problem with humanity these days. You have no respect. I can only hope that you don’t have too many people close to you in your miserable existance who have to put up with your vitriolic filth.

  14. Jon says:

    “We’re dirt poor”.

    Hmm. Scally said that there was an extra £300k on wages this season. Now, he may have his faults, but he wouldn’t have gone public with that information if he wasn’t going to deliver – he may treat fans like shit, but even he’s not naive enough to think we are that stupid.

    So, 11 players out – including what I would expect were our two highest earners in Spills and Flynn – and 10 players in. I would go as far as to suggest that the wage bill is actually smaller than last season, so where has that money gone?

    I’m sure Jepson is trying to add players to the squad, but I would imagine that some of them have seen what his teams are like and heard about his motivational skills (or lack of them) and don’t want to play for him. He didn’t sign enough players in the summer of 2006 and it cost us. He’s done it again this summer.

    You say that Gillingham is not an attractive place to come. Well, that may be true, yet despite that we’ve had some bloody good players at the club over the last 10 years – Akinbiyi, Taylor, Asaba and King to name just a few – and the current squad is the worst we’ve had for years. So why would top class players come and play for Pulis, Taylor and Hess, yet not for Jepson?

    As for using Cox “as a scapegoat”, I don’t use him as a scapegoat at all. It is, essentially, not his fault that he’s not good enough, but the simple fact is that if Jepson had done what he should have done in May 2006 and released him, he wouldn’t have got another club then, so he must be laughing at us for keeping him on for two more years than we should have done.

    This is Jepson’s team. Every player bar Crofts has signed a contract to play for Gillingham Football Club in his reign, and their failings are all down to Jepson. If he didn’t want the players, then he shouldn’t have signed them. Simple. If he didn’t have any choice in signing them and the chairman signed them, then he should admit it and just walk.

    If anything sums up the massive ineptitude of Jepson, it is the signing of Craig Armstrong. An average (at best) League One player, so desperate was Jepson to tempt him away from Cheltenham that we are paying his travel costs from Nottingham, and then Jepson reveals that he’s a good signing because he gets “six or seven” out of 10 every week. So far he’s not even managed a five.

  15. Bernard says:

    Couldn’t agree more about Armstrong. He’s looked awful to me. No pace and just lumps it every time he gets it. I was never a fan of Jackman, but i’d welcome him back with open arms. Add to that we’re paying for his travel an it really does become a joke. Even Jepson’s comments about him giving 6 or 7 out of 10 every week were a joke. 6/7 is average! Why sign a player who just does enough every week?

    But your comments about us being an attractive club to play for are laughable. Your evidence is the purchases of King, Akinbiyi, Asaba and Taylor. You’re joking, right? We picked these players up beofre they became household names you clown. We made them household names, there’s quite a difference. We bought them from lower leagues – of course it’s attractive for them – it was a step up! Just like we’ve signed Cogan and King from Barnet. I’m saying that to get a player from the Championship or our own league is hard, especially when other teams show an interest. Look at Charlie MacDonald, Chris Dickson, Tommy Black, Leon Knight. Is it Jepson’s fault they don’t want to come to a mediocre league one club who can’t compete wage wise?

  16. Bernard says:

    oh and MancGill you can fuck off. I apologised didn’t i? Why don’t you just carry on doing what you do best.. slagging off a team and players which you never see play.

  17. Jon says:

    You can have Marlon King as someone who wasn’t a household name, but Taylor had been immense at Brentford, Asaba had already been transferred for £800k when we signed him and Ade came from a higher division club. I would only say that Marlon and possibly Ade weren’t already well-known when they arrived at Priestfield.

    I never said that we were an attractive club to play for, but I did say that despite it being unattractive, we were able to bring those players to the club.

    As for your examples, Dickson is a shocking one to pick out. Wages make no difference to him at all – given that he’s a loan player. His manager desperately wanted him to come to Priestfield and he would even have been able to commute from where he lives now, rather than upping and moving to Staffordshire. However, he clearly felt that he saw a manager at Gillingham who wouldn’t help his career in the slightest. I would even suggest the same could be said for MacDonald, and possibly Black – if we were even in for Black in the first place, which I’m not sure we were.

  18. MancGill says:

    You know nothing about it son. Tell me how many games I’ve seen in the last two seasons? Oh that’s right you can’t because you have no idea. Puerile waste of space.

  19. Jon says:

    Jepson on Saturday: “I need new faces, look at the bench, I had kids on it”

    Jepson on Thursday: “I could sign players, but I won’t sign players for the sake of it”.

    That’s fine, but don’t moan about having to have young lads on the bench when you’ve turned down the chance to sign players.

  20. Bernard says:

    so you would condone signing players for the sake of it?

    just about sums you up.

  21. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    Bernard, are you deiberately obtuse? Jon makes a valid point – he moans he’s got no options but then says he’s not going to sign anyone. You must have gone to the same school of english and reasoning as the ginger one himself.

  22. Bernard says:

    does he say he’s not going to sign anyone? does he really say that? look more carefully pal.. cos i swear it says ‘FOR THE SAKE OF IT..’

    you read what you want to read. like every other moaning wanker.

  23. Bring Back Les Berry says:

    You’re the wanker sunshine. Fuck off and support Chortle Pathetic.

  24. Jon says:

    It’s fine by me if he doesn’t want to sign players for the sake of it.

    However, those comments mean that from this moment on until the joyous day that we are rid of him, he has absolutely no right to whinge about not having enough players, because players for the sake of it are better than no players at all.

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