Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for our final home game of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League One season against play-off hopefuls Fleetwood Town.
I’d like to extend my welcome to Fleetwood’s directors, management team, players and supporters, all of whom have travelled hundreds of miles from Lancashire to Kent for today’s fixture.
It’s safe to say that the final few minutes of Good Friday’s victory over Bristol Rovers here were among the most memorable and satisfying during my time as chairman. Every victory is enjoyable, but when they are achieved late on thanks to a magical piece of play, they become even more special. Cody McDonald’s two goals in stoppage time will live long in the memory of everybody inside the stadium, as will the outpouring of emotion they triggered. Hearing the roar that cried out when his first flew into the roof of the net once again illustrated the passion and desire of our amazing supporters.
Credit goes to all of the players for their performances against Rovers; it should not be overlooked that by beating them last Friday we ended their play-off hopes. They are a strong, powerful side, but we wanted the three points more than them. We fought as a team, we stood up to the challenge as a team and, ultimately, we won as a team.
The support from the stands last Friday and away to Charlton Athletic on Monday (where our following of nearly 2,200 was the highest for a league game this season) was once again tremendous. I know the players and management all wanted to win at The Valley to not only move closer to securing our Sky Bet League One status, but to also reward the incredible backing you have shown during our 22 league and six cup games away from home this season.
I realise that, at times, the 2016/17 campaign has been testing. Personally, I have experienced and felt just about every emotion going over the course of the last nine months, and I’m sure that this applies to all of our incredible supporters, too.
But it is important to remember that we are stronger when we are united. We are more powerful when our backing from the stands is positive and we achieve more when we tackle any challenges together.
I have little doubt that the support you will afford the players this afternoon, as well as away to Northampton Town next Sunday, will be loud and encouraging. I’d urge every fan to extend their backing to every player in blue on the pitch, and also make sure that they keep at it from 3pm until 5pm this afternoon.
Everybody involved with the club knows the benefits of retaining our Sky Bet League One status – it is in all of our interests to play a part in the fight.
Shortly before kick-off, we will crown our Player of the Year, with the presentation taking place on the pitch. Our other trophies that recognise the work of our first team over the course of this season will also be issued, with the first of them being awarded at 2.30pm. We have taken the decision to replace our annual awards dinner in favour of presenting the prizes in front of our loyal supporters, so I hope to see plenty of fans in their seats to join in with the ceremony.
Our season ticket early bird deadline is fast approaching. Once again, supporters have this week shown their amazing commitment to the club by purchasing their one-year and two-year season tickets in great numbers. The early bird deadline is 1pm next Saturday (April 29); I’d urge all supporters who are either renewing their seat or purchasing a season ticket for the first time to do so before then as they will receive the biggest discounts.
As I have said previously, season ticket sales generate vital income for the club; they underpin our recruitment policy and will support the club in our long-term aspirations of building a new stadium at Mill Hill, as well as our impending High Court case against Centreplate.
Supporters may have also seen that Medway Council have extended the consultation period for their Local Plan, the document that shapes the development in the Towns between now and 2035. Should the Mill Hill site (situated near to our training ground) appear in the council’s approved Local Plan later this year, our dreams of building a stadium that will significantly benefit the community will move a step closer.
The closing date is now 5pm on Tuesday, May 30. Fans can download template letters in support of our long-term ambitions from the club website, which also has the full details of where they need to be sent. Supporters can also request copies by visiting the ticket office.
The next big event at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium is the Take Heart Mercy Mission Summer Ball, which takes place in our Great Hall on Saturday, June 24. All money raised from this dinner and its fantastic auction goes towards the incredible 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) 300000 for more information on this event and to book your table.
Thank you once again for your dedicated and unwavering support over the last nine months. I wish you all an enjoyable summer and I hope to see every one of you back at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium in August for the start of the 2017/18 campaign. Before then, let’s all be the 12th Man and get behind the team from start to finish this afternoon!
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally