This time last month we were still digesting the departure of Ronnie Jepson, a month later and the club remains in limbo. Most Gills fans would probably agree that Scally was right to take his time selecting the next manager, get it wrong and we’ll be in League Two next season, but after several false starts we’re all non the wiser and still stuck in limbo.
Various rumours have done the rounds, some scary (McMahon), some controversial (Allen), some unlikely (Taylor), some just plain silly (Warnock) and some pure fantasy (Mourinho come on down!). The reality now appears that ex-Gill Mark Stimson was and perhaps still is first choice, but that despite resigning from Stevenage his appointment would involve having to pay his ex-club compensation that we probably can’t really afford. The other fly in the ointment being that for any decent managers out there as opposed to the “usual suspects” there are several other jobs up for grabs at the moment including Millwall which don’t come with our debt, our poor squad or Scally’s unique reputation.
The other candidate is the current incumbent, the caretaker, although the longer the farce continues the more likely Iffy Onuora will have the keys thrown to him despite some mixed results. To be honest had the Gills not continued to be utterly, utterly shite on their travels he would probably have already got the job. At home we’ve managed to give the then leaders Orient a good seeing to, hold a rampant Leeds, albeit only equalising against nine men in the dying seconds, and contrived two thrilling comebacks at home to Luton in the JPT from 3-1 down and on Saturday against Bristol Rovers.
The main catalyst for the revival at home as been the loan signing of Chris Dickson, thank you very much to Charlton for lending him to us, not exactly the finished article but he scores goals including the first Gills hat-trick since Iffy against Norwich in 2001 and toped that with a sublime strike on Saturday, hitting the ball early and with the sort of easy technique the rest of our fumbling strikers don’t appear to possess.
Away from home the pain continues, the abject surrender at Swindon being the last straw for many. Scally was so sickened even he walked out early and gave free tickets to those with a Swindon stub as an apology. “You cruel sod!” I hear you cry, but at least it was a genuine recognition from the top that it was beyond unacceptable, it was a disgrace. Unfortunately two other decisions by the club have angered many supporters, already at breaking point. The first was the re-scheduling of the Swansea away game at less than three weeks notice. Well are all aware of legitimate reasons, changes agreed back July when the fixtures come out, for example the Brighton away game being moved to the Friday night because the Seagulls aren’t allowed to play Saturday home games in December – the Withdean park and ride is required for Christmas shoppers (!) – plus the usual suspects (Sky television – Yeovil), cup commitments (FA Cup 3rd and 4th rounds in the New Year) plus if the police think a game is “high risk”.
The Swansea game never fell into any of these categories and so fans made their plans accordingly. For those traveling by train that meant spending £28 on non-refundable tickets nearly three months in advance. Given the fact that the last two visits to Swansea at the new Liberty Stadium were postponed at short notice with some fans almost at the Severn Bridge before we won on a Tuesday night and last season moved to midweek because of progress in the FA Cup this is very bloody annoying to everybody. We haven’t played at Swansea on a Saturday since the mid-80’s! It was a chance for many fans to “do” the new ground and upwards of 300 would have been expected to make the long trek despite our away form. So what happens, well Swansea request the change, their manager prefers Friday nights to give them more recovery time before midweek games, the Swansea website quoted “fixture congestion” which is laughable give the natural rhythm of English football since the advent of floodlights fifty years ago has been Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday. A ludicrous claim – we played 13 midweek games last season, no Saturday games were moved to accommodate them. Not as ludicrous as the hastily concocted reason on the Gills website “on police advice” which was proved to be total bullshit by simply phoning Swansea City and speaking to their helpful club secretary.
Now it takes two to tango, the Gills had to agree, the could and should have said no, but apparently Swansea offered to pay our travel costs and after a long delay due to our lack of manager the Gills agreed without giving the fans a second thought, which sums up the club at the moment. The end result of all this is some severely pissed off Gills fans. Those that bought train ticket now are out of pocket to the tune of £28 each, one poor soul has eight, those that can’t rearrange other commitments or get time off work at very short notice cannot now attend the game and those that do will have to do so by road (the only option) on a Friday night along the M25 and the M4 and get back home late into Saturday morning or stay the night in Swansea.
Inevitably not many fans will go, with tickets to be bought in advance due to Swansea’s rather shitty attitude to away fans generally – at the time of writing we have sold just fifty, that’s right fifty tickets, with less than twenty people booked up on the one coach. It is looking like being only the second sub-100 attendance for an away League game since I started going away regularly in 1984-85, the only previous occasion being a meaningless rearranged at short notice Tuesday night at Bury pre-Scally. The last time this rescheduling happened was almost exactly ten years ago at Oldham, people kicked up a fuss then. Back in 1997 the Gills were upwardly mobile, 300 people still made hasty arrangements to be there, now we are frankly pathetic on the road and being treated with such casual contempt that will only chip away further at the dwindling hardcore of fans that still make the effort to represent the club away from the comfy confines of Priestfield. Several have already vowed not to go to any long distance away games again this season. Do you really blame them? I don’t.
Home fans could soon still be pretty miffed too, albeit only if the Gills avoid defeat in the FA Cup at Barnet. The usual date for the reply clashes with an under 18 England international to be held at Priestfield, Monday is out because the Gills are on Sky at Yeovil on the Sunday which leaves the Wednesday when England happen to be playing Croatia. Obviously if Russia beat Israel then it will be a “dead” game but still many hundreds of the 90,000 sell out crowd will be Gills fans who have already spent between £25 and £60. If it is by some miracle important all or nothing qualifier then the whole nation will be gripped. How many fans will chose to watch the Gills vs. Barnet (all pay) in those circumstances? It could be very embarrassing! Once again the administration at Gillingham simply aren’t doing their jobs properly. It isn’t fucking rocket science! The modest fee we might get from the FA for hosting the U18 game would be dwarfed by any losses from a reply. What a shambles again!
So another mixed month for the Gills, still managerless, still getting results at home and nothing away. Hopefully by the end of November two of those things will have changed.