Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, and welcome to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for what is our penultimate home fixture of 2016.
I’d like to begin by welcoming everybody from Rochdale to Medway for today’s game, and I wish them a safe and enjoyable visit to the home of football in Kent, aside from the full-time score.
Once again, the emotional challenge that comes with being involved with a football club has been present in recent weeks. From the highs of beating Northampton Town in the league, courtesy of a brilliant stoppage-time strike from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, to the lows of our exit in the FA Cup at the hands of non-league Brackley Town, and then the perfect response at Walsall last Saturday, things have certainly been up and down since I last wrote a set of programme notes.
It is never easy being a football fan, as we all yearn for victories and success for our clubs, but, as I have said previously, it is during times of adversity when decisions (like the strong penalty claims we had turned down against Oxford United on Tuesday night) and results go against you that we need to all dig deep and keep on believing that things will take a turn for the better. If we stick together and create a siege mentality, results will quickly follow.
One big positive at present is that the never-ending early season list of injured players is gradually improving, plus those players who did not have regular minutes in matches or missed some of pre-season training have started to move towards full fitness. We are beginning to see the Bradley Dack of last season in recent weeks, and loan signing Baily Cargill has been excellent in his first four games for the club. Once we get most of our players available for selection week in, week out, we will have the strength-in-depth to end 2016 strongly and give ourselves the best chance possible of a successful second half of the season.
After today, our next outing will be away to Bolton Wanderers, a game that will be shown live on Sky Sports as one of their 10 in 10 promotion throughout December. I hope we can redeem ourselves by avoiding a repeat of our FA Cup replay display at Brackley, and instead show the watching world how good a football team we are on our day.
I was delighted to see the club’s under-18s progress into round three of this season’s FA Youth Cup after beating Plymouth Argyle on penalties on November 15. We now can look forward to a home tie against Oxford City at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Wednesday (November 30, 7pm kick-off) and I hope as many Gills fans as possible can make it to this match. We have set the admission price as £5 for adults, with under-18s going free, so I am hoping we will get a good attendance to help the players progress to round four for the first time in over a decade.
As chairman of Gillingham Football Club, I was immensely proud of how well our Remembrance service prior to our Northampton Town home match on November 12 was conducted and received. We are proud of our links with the Royal Engineers and the Chatham Dockyard, and I’d like to thank everybody for their immaculate response to proceedings.
Off the pitch, we have put together a range of ticket offers and discounted hospitality packages in time for the forthcoming festive season, as we look to reward fans and businesses for their continued support of the club.
Yesterday, the Gills Megastore held its annual Black Friday promotion, in which season ticket holders benefitted from 25 per cent off all products. Our online store (www.gillsshop.com) has been totally refreshed in the past month, with our new line of retail items added in time for the fast-approaching big day on December 25.
With only one home game between now and the New Year, we are making the MK Dons match on Saturday, December 17 our Christmas Special to encourage as many fans, families and young supporters as possible to come and enjoy this pre-festive encounter. We have cut the price of tickets to £15 for adults, £10 for over-65s and £5 for under-18s, and the response has already been positive. We have also already sold a number of Half-Season Tickets, which cover our last 12 home games and are now available.
The last week also saw the launch of the club’s discounted Festive Trio offer, for which hospitality packages for our Sky Bet League One matches against MK Dons, Oxford United (January 2) and AFC Wimbledon (January 7) have been significantly reduced. This promotion includes our ever-popular Watch, Wine and Dine deal, Medway Stand boxes and the Vice-Presidents’ Club. Full information can be found on the club website – don’t miss out on these exclusive offers!
This Christmas period features two away fixtures against Peterborough United (December 26, 3pm kick-off) and Millwall (December 30, 7.45pm kick-off). We always take a large following to both games and hopefully, with these fixtures falling kindly during the festive period, this will once again be the case this time around. Tickets are now available for both matches, and initial sales were extremely promising, so I hope two memorable away days are in store. Supporters can secure theirs in person at the ticket office, by calling our Customer Service Centre or online.
The first of our 13 Winter Wonderland events commence tonight, and from what I’ve seen of the transformation in our Great Hall, everybody attending is in for a real treat. Virtually all of our Christmas party nights, as well as our New Year’s Eve celebration, have already sold out, but we do still have limited availability on some of these evenings. Call (01634) 350350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place.
Away from home, there was great news from Sri Lanka, as Shantha Kumara, who underwent crucial life-saving surgery during our recent Take Heart Mercy Mission, is returning to full health. Aged just 23, he had little chance of survival prior to the operation, but thanks to the great work of Dr Conal Austin and local cardio surgeon Tolusha Harischandra, he can now look optimistically towards the future. My thanks go to Sri Lankan Airlines for their sponsorship of Take Heart, and to all the Gills fans and sponsors who made the trip possible. The Take Heart team are fantastic, their life-saving medical skills are outstanding, and their work continues to inspire.
Fingers crossed for three points this afternoon – let’s be the 12th man once again!
Up the Gills!
P D P Scally