Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes

Good afternoon Ladies and Gents, Girls and Boys and welcome back to Priestfield Stadium this afternoon where we host our local rivals Leyton Orient. On behalf of everyone connected to the Club, I’d like to welcome the directors, management, players and supporters of our guests and, result apart, hope you enjoy your stay in Kent.

The O’s have had a change in ownership this season with Italian Francesco Becchetti buying the Club from Barry Hearn, who himself had been at Orient for around 20 years, running the Club professionally, to strict budgets and within the rules.

Barry was a big character in football and whilst I welcome Francesco to the football family I also wish Barry every success in the future and thank him for the special moments we’ve enjoyed with him at various meetings and games over the years.

There are few businesses in this world quite like football, given the huge emotion and public interaction it attracts, with everyone connected to a Club all wanting the same end result, often irrespective of the fallout along the way, with media analysis of the product at its highest in football history, and the consequences for so called lack of success being radical, so it is no wonder I guess that when a Club has a run of few wins in our domestic competition, irrespective of what the bigger picture may be, that supporters will be uncomfortable, angry and display a bag of mixed emotions towards those they deem responsible.

In the case of our own Club, and I’m sure our visiting fans will have similar feelings at this stage of the season, we clearly are not producing the number of wins at this moment in time that we would prefer, that any of us would prefer, and indeed the doom and gloom merchants have already written the team off as certain relegation candidates for this season given our league position, many of them refusing to attend Priestfield until we change our fortunes, a number posting harsh, hurtful and damaging messages on forums aimed at different individuals, obviously behind fictitious names,  however we will be judged as a Club over 46 games of any one campaign, if we succeed and do well it is because those that care for this Club have pulled together, stuck together and battled together, and if we fail then we should all take responsibility and a proportionate share of the blame.

It is not our intention to fail, there is and always will be tremendous character and spirit within this Club, from the Boardroom to the dressing room, and when I look in the eyes of our players and have conversations with them, I see and hear their determination to do well and be successful, they are proud of the shirt they wear, they work hard every day of the week to improve their personal and team performances, they want to run out on the turf on a match day and do well, to excite the fans and win matches.

We are lucky there is not a bad apple in the camp, we are lucky to have a squad of players that, to a man, have great individual ability and a good mix of different abilities, and I believe most fans that understand football have seen many more positives than negatives so far this year, and whilst I accept those positives have not necessarily all turned into results, we are not far away.

When I look back over the first third of the season, I can only remember one game, Scunthorpe at home, when I was really disappointed with the team, the performance and obviously the result. I know we played with ten men for the most part but it went down as a bad day for me. In all other games I’ve been disappointed, as indeed we all will have been, if we haven’t won, but I’ve been impressed with what we’ve tried to do in those games, how we’ve played, trying to take the positives and not focus so much on the negatives.

As for Peter Taylor and our management team, I feel for them to be honest. Good guys, nice individuals, great football people, working very hard, doing a good job, rebuilding a new team and trying to play a different style, not had the best of fortune with injuries, sending offs, international call ups, changing formations, can’t win in some peoples eyes, easy bait for the trolls who could of course all do a better job, under pressure from those that seem to know better, should be sacked according to some etc etc.

It pains me to hear it all to be honest, and I’m more worried than most at our recent lack of wins, although Tuesday night at Crawley helped me sleep better, however how do any of us in life expect our managers and coaches to work when we heap so much external pressure on them, analyzing every moment and criticizing at every opportunity, posting comments on forums that are probably seen by their families and friends. How many people reading these notes go to work every day in whatever jobs they do with the constant daily fear of losing their jobs if they get something wrong that day, or over the week or month? 

What I can tell you is that if I had to go to war, I’d be more than happy to have those that battle for us week in week out on my side because they wouldn’t let you down, they certainly wouldn’t turn their backs on you. Alan Pardew is a good mate of mine and I can tell you the abuse he and his family were getting from our Geordie friend when Newcastle were in the relegation zone was quite frankly disgusting and unacceptable, so how does that sit with the same people now he’s pulled a few wins and got them to touching distance of the top four?

I guess my point, and I apologize if it sounds like a rant, is that we are a decent team, we have played some great football this season, we haven’t got the wins in plenty that we wanted so far, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, hang in there and keep the faith, stick together, because it’s encouragement, support and trust the team need right now, and on that basis I’m confident they will deliver. 

Crawley in the JPT last Tuesday night, in the pouring rain and with an incredible 300 + Gills fans in support, was a great example of what’s outstanding about this Club, and the well deserved result gave all those in attendance a pleasant journey home, and will have given the players confidence that if they work hard and concentrate for every minute of the game, they will get their rewards. It was great to see Lofty and Jermaine get their goals, but the overall performance of the entire team was outstanding and a credit to the Club.

On local political matters I have been following the media coverage of the upcoming Rochester by election and the defection of the previous Conservative candidate Mark Reckless to UKIP. I am not a particular lover of politicians in general, because I often find they say what suits themselves from a career perspective rather than what’s good for the people or the area, hence I was infuriated with the, in my view, appropriately named Mr. Reckless, for his comments and support in regards to the Medway Docks Peel development site, which we as a Club, and with the support of Medway Council, had earmarked for a possible new stadium with enabling development.

He failed to take any interest in the importance of the football club, nor has he ever met with me or discussed the merits of our business, which is a huge community benefit in Medway, employs many local people and indeed creates business for a good number of local people, at the expense of his ‘point scoring’ line of how excellent the Dock development would be insofar as job creation was concerned. Apart from our development plans, (which I’m certain he had never viewed), were concerned I am confident we would, and will on another site, create far more genuine jobs in Medway and opportunities for local people than the Peel application suggests they will achieve, which remarkably gained planning approval, but in reality I’m sure will fail to deliver.

I much prefer to work with politicians that mean what they say, we work well with Medway Leader Rodney Chambers, we work well with Gillingham MP Rehman Chishti and we work well with Kelly Tolhurst, whom I understand is standing against Mr Reckless in Rochester, all of whom support the Club and understand its importance to Medway and the people of Medway. I’m not trying to whip up support for any party as I have no interest in that matter, but if I was voting locally myself, I would back those that back us as a Club, so on that basis I hope Kelly gets in so she can help GFC achieve its bigger goals.

Last night in the Great Hall we hosted over 350 people for the annual Take Heart Mercy Mission Charity Ball, it was a great success and thanks to everyone that helped organize, sponsor or bid for the Auction offerings. This year we took four coaches from our Football In The Community team to Sri Lanka where they ran a soccer school for over 1200 girls and boys. Apart from being a good experience for the coaches, and a great PR exercise for the Club, it was a huge success and we will post pictures and a DVD on the website shortly for all to see.

Back to today, it goes without saying how much of an impact positive support has on our team and thus performance. I am confident our boys will put all into a strong performance and hopefully we will all leave Priestfield tonight with that winning feeling.
Get behind the boys and let’s make Priestfield rock.

Up the Gills

Paul D P Scally