Medway Messenger: Friday, 17 May, 2013

Good reason for no Gills parade

I HAVE been a Gills fan for more years than I care to remember, and I well remember standing in Gillingham Park as the Division Two Play-off Final success was celebrated from the balcony of the Municipal Buildings more than a decade ago.

That is why I can understand Mr Sengelow’s sentiments (Letters, May 10) regarding a victory parade following the Gills’ extremely successful centenary year. The club has not always had an easy relationship with Medway Council, but it is important to note that the council is always keen to allow all residents the chance to celebrate the club’s success and has, in the past, accommodated victory parades.

Unfortunately, this time the club was unable to take up the council’s offer, which has provoked a mixed reaction from fans.

I am not too concerned about the fact that a victory parade will not be taking place this year. Unlike the play-off finals, the League 2 championship was won and the trophy presented on home soil, in front of a capacity crowd. This allowed the team to celebrate the success in Gillingham, without the need for an additional local celebration.

Gillingham Football Club is one of the best Football League clubs for involving fans, and Martin Allen has put the fans at the forefront of everything the team has done this year. From inviting them on to the team coach at away matches and into the dressing room, to opening up training sessions and ensuring players do not leave without signing autographs and posing for photographs, the fans have always been held in high regard by the club, management and players. The fans have even been asked to choose next season’s kit.

The decision not to hold a victory parade was, therefore, clearly not taken with the intention of disappointing the fans, although I accept that there may be a few who were unable to attend the match against AFC Wimbledon who may be disappointed. I am therefore happy to accept the club’s decision and look forward to another successful season, albeit this time in League 1!

Alan Collins
Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

Allen announces starting XI

Gillingham’s championship-winning manager Martin Allen has announced his starting XI for the final gane of the season.

As the Gills travel to Burton Albion with little left to play for besides pride, Allen is seeking to give development squad players a runout before the record-breaking centenary season concludes.

The team will be Forecast, Romeo, Davies, Frampton, Muggleton, Gregory, Dack, Allen, Grant, Birchall, Weston.

Allen said “we have a combination of some senior and younger players. This is a big game for a lot of our players, and we are ready.”

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At the Medway Council meeting tonight, leader Cllr Rodney Chambers reiterated the council’s congratulations for the Gills’ success, and his remarks were echoed around the council chamber.

Cllr Chambers added that they had offered to facilitate a victory parade, but unfortunately the club was unable to take that up.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Geoff Juby described the club’s decision as a shame.

The power behind the Gills

The fairy tale of Gillingham ended, like all good fairy tales, in dramatic fashion.

The blue boys, playing in red as they have done throughout their centenary season, only needed one point to secure the nPower League Two trophy but, after less than 23 minutes the thought of a draw was far from the minds of players and fans alike.

Veteran striker Deon Burton opened the scoring for the Gills early on with a strike that seemingly came from nowhere before former Don Danny Kedwell doubled the Gills’ lead heading in Chris Whelpdale’s cross.

The Gills kept pushing until the second half, when they returned from the dressing room playing like they’d OD’d on valium. AFC Wimbledon, fighting for Football League survival for the first time in their short history, saw their chance, with Jack Midson bringing them back into the game after the hour and Jon Meades levelling the scoring with less than ten minutes to play.

Every Gills fan knows that supporting the club is not easy, and were nervously watching the clock as referee Andy D’Urso seemed to drag out stoppage time. In the end, it need not have concerned Gillingham whether they won, lost or drew, as Port Vale dropped points at home to Northampton, securing the Gills’ League Two title as the sun shone on the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.

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In times of success, it is fashionable to congratulate those who made it happen – and it went without saying that on Saturday the Chairman, Paul Scally, the Manager, Martin Allen, the Assistant Manager, John Schofield, all the backroom staff, Captain Adam Barrett, the whole playing squad and, of course, the loyal fans, were all mentioned in dispatches.

Also worth giving thanks to, though, are the sponsors – those who, along with paying fans, fund the football club and have allowed such a successful squad to be built. To Medway Mowers, sponsors of the 37 goals scored at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Ah yes, to MEMS, who sponsor the club and the stadium, and whose logo has been seen across the country side-by-side with that of the Football League sponsors nPower (the irony of which I will let you research yourself). And to all those whose advertising space can be seen in matchday programmes and advertising boards around the ground.

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There is now just one game of the season to go and Martin Allen may look to play those who have spent much of the season warming the bench. He is keeping his selection under wraps for now, but the Medway Messenger are reporting that Mad Dog is approaching the final game of the season differently.

Who knows, even Tommy Forecast might get his first league start for the champions before he returns to Southampton…

Feeling the blues

After my announcement this weekend that I was leaving the Conservative Party, I received a rather tongue-in-cheek Tweet ahead of tonight’s televised Gillingham game:

@ well I do hope a group of blue gentlemen bring you some pleasure this evening!
@DavidISheedy
David Sheedy

It was a must-win-or-at-least-draw game for the Gills, who had been displaced as League Two leaders on Saturday and now sat just one point behind Port Vale.

Three things married together tonight that meant that it would not be an easy tie to win:

  1. It was a home game, and home form has been well below par in recent months;
  2. Manager Martin Allen chose not to change the starting XI which beat Northampton on Tuesday, and unchanged starting IXs have been more lax this season; and
  3. It was live on Sky Sports, adding pressure to the Gills.

I tried, oh I tried, to put these three thoughts to the back of my mind as the game got underway. But, sadly, my thoughts resurrected themselves at the end of 90 minutes as the evening caused embarrassment all round for the Gills and their fans.

Embarrassment because the team failed to make or take chances in the first half and failed to turn up in the second, letting Wycombe run rings around them and, finally, score and win.

Embarrassment because so-called “fans” again decided to mark the final whistle by booing the team who are second in League Two, just one point behind the leaders and seven ahead of third-placed Cheltenham Town, and who no doubt are fully aware that their home form must improve.

Embarrassment because of this idiot:

Overall, tonight was not a good night to be a Gillingham fan. But, onwards and upwards, as they say. We’re away on Saturday. To League Cup finalists Bradford City. So on our form, we’ll probably win.

At least, I pray to God we will!

Shots silenced by The Allen Family

20 year-old Charlie Allen netted his first goal for the Gills as his Dad’s side regained their home form with a 4-0 pounding of Aldershot Town.

Allen, who was brought to the club shortly after Dad Martin was appointed manager, took just 11 minutes to open the scoring against the Shots, making up for his red card when Gillingham visited Northampton Town.

Club favourite Danny Kedwell doubled the lead from the spot on 27 minutes after Sonny Bradley was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area – taking his goal tally to 10 in 14 appearances and almost reaching his end of season tally from 2011/2012 after just two months.

And Myles Weston took the score to 3-0 seven minutes from the break after being fed the ball by Kedwell.

Aldershot woke up in the second half and made it difficult for the Gills to break through, but failed to create many chances for themselves and, in the 66th minute, Chris Whelpdale rounded of the 4-0 victory when his low shot hit the bar and trickled over the line.

With Port Vale still to play Oxford United on Monday night, the emphatic victory leaves the blues six points clear at the top of League Two, a position they have now occupied for six weeks.