Good afternoon everybody and welcome back to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for our penultimate home game of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League One season against Bristol Rovers.
I’d like to extend my welcome to the directors, management team, players and supporters who have travelled from the South West for today’s fixture.
No doubt every Gillingham supporter will agree with my sentiments when I say that I took plenty of heart out of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw here against promotion-chasing Millwall.
Given our opponents came into the game off the back of two important wins, and had a large following in the Brian Moore Stand, I imagine that they would have fancied themselves to claim the three points.
Instead, I think we battled brilliantly from the first minute to the last and restricted one of the most potent forward lines in the league to just a handful of opportunities. This isn’t something that’s achieved through coincidence – it all comes down to the work that Ady and the coaching team do with the players in the days leading up to matches.
Nobody can question the commitment and the desire of the players; I think the celebration that followed Joe Quigley’s brilliant opener reiterated how devoted every member of the squad is to the cause.
Ultimately every point gained between now and our final game of the season on April 30 will prove crucial in the fight to retain our Sky Bet League One status for the 2017/18 campaign. Given how tight the table is going into this Easter period, last Saturday’s draw could end up being the difference.
More importantly, the good performance and resilient defensive display gives us something to build on this afternoon. Victory today would provide a massive boost for everybody associated with the club and would ensure the players go into Monday’s game against Charlton Athletic at The Valley in good spirits.
This is where the support from the stands becomes so important. Last Saturday’s atmosphere was fantastic – the best of the season so far - and a repeat of that in our next two games would help the players take a big step towards that finish line. I’m told that over 2,000 fans are expected to make the short journey to South London on Monday, which means Gills supporters will make up around a fifth of the total crowd. That is fantastic to hear and reiterates what passionate and committed fans we have.
It has been another busy week off the pitch, particularly in the ticket office, as supporters continued to buy their season tickets in great numbers.
Once again, I’d like to thank everybody who has either renewed theirs or purchased one for the first time. I am also delighted to see so many of you opting for our two-year season ticket, which offer the best value for our supporters while generating vital income for the club going forward. Season ticket sales are the lifeline of the club’s annual cash flow; they underpin both our recruitment policy and any off-field activities we undertake, be it by choice or necessity.
On that note, the deadline for fans to write to Medway Council in support of the club’s aspirations of moving to a new, modern, multi-purpose sporting arena on land known as Mill Hill is fast approaching.
Should this site (situated near to our training ground) be featured in the council’s approved Local Plan later this year, our dreams of building a stadium that will benefit the whole of Medway and beyond will move a step closer.
The closing date of Medway Council’s Local Plan consultation period is this Tuesday (April 18), so I urge all fans to now email their letters of support as opposed to sending them via post. Templates can be downloaded from the club website and emailed to email@example.com.
Online voting is now open for this year’s Player of the Year awards, too. Don’t miss out on the chance to show your support for your favourite. Votes can be cast on the GFC website but entries close at 5pm on Monday.
Finally, bookings remain open for the Take Heart Mercy Mission Summer Ball, which is being held in our Great Hall, on Saturday, June 24. All money raised goes towards the life-saving work performed by medics from the Evelina Hospital on critically-ill children in Sri Lanka. Tickets are available for a donation of £60 each, or £500 for a table of 10.
Contact the club’s specialist commercial team on (01634) 350350 for more information on this event.
After today’s game Gills fans will only have one more opportunity to get behind their team at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium this season, so please make the most of this opportunity and show your support from the first minute to the last this afternoon. Your encouragement and backing will make a difference, so let’s all be the 12th Man.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally