Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and welcome to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for today’s game against Port Vale.
As ever, I’d like to begin my notes by welcoming everybody associated with today’s visitors – their directors, management, playing staff and supporters – to Kent for this Sky Bet League One fixture. Other than wanting the Gills to claim the three points, I hope they have an enjoyable day in ME7.
This game is the first of four home fixtures in the next two weeks, with an away trip to Coventry City in seven days our sole game on the road in that period. As a result, we have a great opportunity to put a positive run of results together to move up the table and distance ourselves once and for all from the relegation places.
One thing I’ve learned in all my years as chairman of this great club is that statistics can be very misleading. Going into this afternoon’s match having taken three points from as many games in recent weeks would cause some concern at a number of teams around the country, but our displays since mid-January have given me great optimism as we enter the final months of this season. I’ve also noticed a more positive mood in and around the club in that time, too.
Ady, his coaching staff and the players have delivered excellent performances against promotion-chasing Sheffield United and Bradford City, silencing crowds of around 20,000 fans, while we could have been 3-0 up at half-time in our last home game against Shrewsbury Town on January 28.
Special mention must go to Deji Oshilaja and Josh Wright who, in recent weeks, have looked more like seasoned strikers than a defender and a midfielder! I doubt any Gills fan minds who scores the goals, and when Josh is firing home powerful shots and Deji is using his strength and skill to earn us crucial points, it emphasises the work ethic and the united nature of the first-team squad right now.
I agree wholeheartedly with the positive comments I read and heard from those Gills fans who travelled to West Yorkshire last Saturday. Defensively, the work Ady and his fantastic team of coaches continue to do on the training ground is paying off in games, as Bradford were limited to just a handful of chances throughout. There was even a bit of luck with their second goal, as Stuart Nelson made a brilliant save in the build-up to it.
Those sides who are at the top of their respective leagues are always tough to beat, and I think our players’ battling qualities were firmly on show against Bradford City. This was perhaps lacking earlier on in the season. When you see attacking-minded players such as Rory Donnelly, Cody McDonald and Scott Wagstaff working tirelessly for the cause, you know that this team won’t go down without a fight.
I’m sure I’m won’t be the only chairman in football who is pleased to see the back of the January transfer window. The new rule that force league clubs to conduct their business in such short spaces of time cause plenty of stress, extended working hours on top of an already busy schedule, and distort the market completely.
Nonetheless, to have strengthened the side by bringing in four players represents a successful month for us. I watched our recent private friendly against Dagenham & Redbridge and was encouraged by the performances of Tomas Holy and Josh Parker, while our two loanees from AFC Bournemouth Harry Cornick and Joe Quigley will cause problems for teams in this division once they’re ready for selection.
No player is more important than a healthy balance sheet, and I believe that the majority of supporters understand this. We don’t have the budget to match those clubs, like Bradford, who pay six-figure sums for players and offer them weekly wages equivalent to those some of our professionals earn in a month. The new regulations that forbid loan moves throughout the season also force teams’ hands when it comes to signing players who may not be 100 per cent fit, too. But, as Baily Cargill showed during his time with the club earlier in the season, it is important that we now have an outlook beyond our immediate set of fixtures when signing players.
Given the frequently changing nature of transfer rules and guidelines, you’d hope that communication from football’s governing bodies and authorities would be exemplary. However, the fact that the EFL didn’t even know the regulations when it came to a new FIFA directive that only permits players to sign permanently with and make first-team appearances for two professional clubs during a single season suggests a breakdown in the relevant information channels.
Ady and I worked hard to bring defender Bondz N’Gala into the club, so we were both extremely frustrated to be told of the amended regulations last Thursday evening. Given we weren’t the only EFL club to fall foul of these updated regulations shows that something has gone extremely wrong somewhere along the lines. Tellingly, the EFL and FA sent an apology out to all clubs on Monday, admitting they had failed to properly communicate the updated rules to clubs in the summer.
Bondz was extremely understanding of the situation and agreed to end the deal; he was also not aware of this strange regulation, and no blame can be attached to him. As a club, we will continue to help his attempts to return to league football for the 2017/18 campaign.
Back to this afternoon’s game, let’s hope the boys in blue can build on their recent positive results and claim that victory we all want to get.
Thank you for your continued fantastic support, and I hope to see all of you here for Tuesday’s fixture against Chesterfield, too!
Let’s be the 12th man today and make plenty of noise.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally