Many have described life at Priestfield under Scally as a roller-coaster ride. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that, in that the long downhill bit hasn’t been much of a scream, but we can only hope that the adrenelin rush of the headlong plunge from Championship to Basement is where the journey ends. Some have certainly got off, a bit disoriented to find themselves back where we started and perhaps wanting to throw up. Many are questioning the value for money. And quite a lot are queuing up to get back on, not quite knowing why. But that’s supporting a football club for you.
It’s different if you’re an employee of the club – to them it’s a job, and some got off at the summit, or just after it started it’s rapid descent. Some saw shinier rides. Some got pushed off (ok, I’ll drop the tenuous roller-coaster analogy now…) but the fact is many of our old friends are now looking down on us from high. Who’s laughing now?
Tony Pulis (Stoke City)
Much as we (or at least many of us) love him and he loved us, he probably allows himself a gratuitous smirk over the way the footballing gods have dealt their cards. Undoubtedly one of the best if not THE best managers we have ever had, he has nothing to prove. But he has got a record to defend – I’ve argued long and hard with Stoke fans that at least they know they’ll never be relegated under Pulis as he will always grind out enough goalless draws and sneak the odd 1-0 squeaker to cobble together enough points. Well, he’s probably buggered that argument now, but as a purist I’m certainly keen to see what the Premiership makes of him.
Mama Sidibe (Stoke City)
Always destined for the top flight, I can see him helping himself to a hatful thanks to that instinctive finishing ability. The man’s a legend and I want him in my fantasy team, though there is some speculation that he won’t start the season with Stoke. He’s nabbed a spectacularly prolific 19 goals in 110 appearances for the Potters (twice his strike rate for us) while clocking up three goals and a stabbing with Mali – Rio Ferdinand won’t know what’s hit him…
Marlon King (Wigan Athletic)
There’s a case to be made that he’s our greatest ever striker in that he scored consistently through the peak in our history. And though clearly a bit of a nob at times, he has proved to be a genuine talent at Watford. Wigan was a slightly strange move, but if he gets a run in the side he could be a revelation.
Jason Brown (Blackburn Rovers)
Quite possibly our greatest keeper, if the same logic as above is applied. It’s hugely disappointing to seeing him floundering on Blackburn’s bench, and their signing of Paul Robinson has further sealed his fate. You can’t argue with his desire to set himself up for life, but a single appearance since he left Priestfield (during which he saved a penalty) has seen him drift out of the Welsh squad, though John Toshack was proving to be as inept at recognising goalkeeping talent as Neale Cooper and was already looking elsewhere before Jason’s career stagnated. But at 26 his time could still come, I really hope so….
Nyron Nosworthy (Sunderland)
A firm favourite with the entire BHM crew, who forever found themselves arguing with others who found his unorthadox approach to defending somewhat alarming. I admit I’d have loved to see him play more in midfield, but Mick McCarthy grabbed him and Roy Keane is clearly getting the best from him – he is adored on Wearside, has a contract until 2010, was voted Player of the Year in 2007 and has his own song (“They tried to take the ball off Nyron, but he said “no, no, nooooo”). Though this from fans who spend a disproportionate amount of their time singing about Niall Quinn’s disco pants. One of the few people to literally run round Wembley with his willy hanging out.
Ade Akinbiyi (Burnley)
Dear old Ade, happy at his natural level (and with his 13th club). Has still scored more goals for Gillingham than anyone else, though two more this season for Burnley will see him overtake that total (and his career record suggests that’ll take about four games). He needs a lot of chances but he still gets in the right places – wouldn’t mind seeing him back in a Gills shirt. Wouldn’t mind seeing Steve Bruce back in a Gills shirt….
Darius Henderson (Sheffield United)
Now at Bramall Lane, often a fatal resting place for ex-Gills strikers, and has somehow commanded a quite staggering £2.5m in transfer fees, which seems rather excessive for the clumsy tit we bought from Reading. Stan Ternant got the best out of him but I still consider the 450 grand Scally got out of Watford to be a supreme bit of business. But something went right for him at Vicarage Road, until they stumbled into the Premiership at least, where he became terminally prone to hitting the bar from a yard out….
Matty Jarvis (Wolves)
I think we missed him last season, I really do. He lacked the strength and guile of Barry Cogan and the pace and intelligence of Aaron Brown, but somehow with Matty it just worked. The best winger at Priestfield since Jerry Williams, if he stays fit he’ll be a sensation at Molineux. Wolves are a massive club, so he’ll need to be.
Micky Flynn (Blackpool)
Not quite sure where it went wrong for him in Kent, he should have grabbed the club by the scruff of the neck and driven us onwards and upwards. But he hid and fled to Blackpool, where by all accounts things are going ok.
Patrick Agymang (QPR)
Christ, how many of our ex-strikers are plundering a worthy living in the top two divisions? Probably gave us an additional year in the Championship through the goals he grabbed in 2004, but was unceremoniously flogged for profit and strutted his stuff at Deepdale for a couple of years. Now part of the obscenely rich revolution at QPR.
Darren Byfield (Doncaster Rovers)
Still striving to represent every club in the league, he’s now ended up at Doncaster. There’s a never ending wad-waving stream willing to offer him a contract but somehow he never really sticks around for long. Of his 13 clubs, only Walsall saw more appearances than the Gills and only Rotherham saw more goals. Maybe this time. Maybe not….
Best of the Rest
Ian Cox –
It’s all gone tits up in many Gills fans’ eyes. A supremely talented centre back with a fantastic career behind him, he was rather past his best by the time he arrived at Priestfield and he couldn’t quite retire with dignity, so his career petered out amidst a flourish of red cards and absent minded defensive incompetence to such an extent that he became both hated and pitied by many. He’s not exactly won a place in our hearts back by joining Maidstone United.
Alfreton Town have just become big Leo’s 19th club. Somehow I think he’ll wreak havoc in the Blue Square Conference North, having been released by Cambridge following his twinkle-toed farewell in their play-off defeat at Wembley.
Has moved onto a rather higher plain in moving to Canada to study Divinity. A loss to the BBC, who had few bright spots in their Euro 2008 coverage, the star of our last relegation to Division 4 aims to become “a pastor, a vicar or a minister” depending on which denomination he chooses to follow. I’m not sure where he gets the God-bothering from, but it can’t be Sir Keef as surely if he’d been a follower of the Lord he wouldn’t have been sacked at Christmas.
The Morty Vicker