The Numbers Game

Gary Wade analyses the history of Gills opening day results

So finally the league season is here and we kick off against Bradford tomorrow.  In some respects, with the almost winter-like weather and the welcome distractions from the Olympics and the European Championships, it doesn’t at all seem like 105 days since the Gills last kicked a meaningful ball.  Over the summer so much has happened, so much has changed and already the Gills can boast an impressive win to their name from the cup exploits against Bristol City.  What hasn’t changed is how the league campaign will begin.  The Bradford match sees the Gills open at home for the sixty-fifth time having travelled away first on forty-four occasions.  Furthermore the game will be the twentieth season from the last twenty-six in which we have hosted the start of the season.


These recent campaigns have helped the Gills get off to a great start (even if on occasion the momentum does get lost fairly quickly).  Unbeaten since the 2001/2 season in the opening match at home, four of the last five games have all registered wins with the only blot being a draw against Cheltenham so it bodes well for the Bantam’s visit.  Recent seasons have certainly made up for the indifference of these games, as a whole, since the re-election back into the Football League in 1950.  Opening day home matches in the bottom tier have seen eight wins, seven draws and six defeats with not a lot of difference from the leagues above.  Even these took seven attempts before the first win was registered with the Gills then subsequently getting six from the next eight.


Some of these starts proved to be quite misleading.  We only need to go back to the 2009/10 season in which Swindon arrived at Priestfield and left rather perplexed at their 5-0 drubbing with some observers perhaps getting just a little too carried away for it had no bearing on the final standings, the Robins making the play-offs whilst the Gills fell into League 2, to date the only season in which we have suffered relegation after an opening win.  Even in seasons in which the Gills earned themselves promotion little can be gleaned from those opening results.  Two of those seasons had begun with home fixtures and ended with wins but another two started out away from home and culminated in defeats!


Indifferent is possibly the best way of describing opening day for the Gills overall, excellent is probably the best way of describing the opening day for the side over the past decade or so.  Clearly the opening day fixture has no bearing on the outcome in May and neither can much be gleaned from the result come five o’clock on Saturday, far too much has the ability to change and my how it does!  However, after a very successful pre-season in which the only defeat came from a Watford side against a slightly experimental Gills team and Tuesday night’s wonderful victory, a win on Saturday afternoon could well provide the impetus the side needs to make up for the narrow margins of failure suffered from the last two seasons.  A few extra wins early on, coupled with the experience behind them, might just be the missing ingredient needed to elevate the club from this division.


Results from opening day Football League fixtures (since 1950):

HOME:     Wins  15     Draws  15     Defeats  10

AWAY:     Wins   6      Draws   4       Defeats  12


Results from all opening day fixtures:

HOME:     Wins  27     Draws  23     Defeats  13

HOME:     Wins   9      Draws   8      Defeats  27