Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for the first of two Sky Bet League One home games in three days.
Our visitors today are promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United and I’d like to extend my welcome to their chairman Peter Swann, directors, management staff, players and those supporters who have made the journey from North Lincolnshire to Kent.
We have now reached the business end of the 2016/17 season, but with five home games out of nine left after this afternoon’s fixture, I am confident that we’ll see plenty of exciting football over the final seven weeks of the campaign.
Obviously we cannot overlook the importance of picking up results, but everybody at the club has taken great heart out of our displays in the victories against Southend United and Bury in the past two weeks.
Having seen for myself the improvements in pre-match preparation made by our new coaching team upon their arrival in January, not to mention the continued commitment and focus of the players, I had no doubt that we’d pick up our first win under Ady before too long. I know I won’t be alone in saying I wanted those first three points to come sooner, but there’s no sport that tests people’s emotions and resilience more than football.
The way the players put their bodies on the line in both our recent victories was great to see. As much as we all like watching exciting, attacking teams, a hallmark of those great sides assembled here during my near 22 years as Gillingham Football Club chairman has always been a strong defensive backbone.
Anybody who watched Arsenal’s heavy defeat to Bayern Munich and PSG capitulating against Barcelona in the Champions League this week will have seen expensive players wilt under pressure, proving that a fighting spirit cannot simply be purchased. It has to come from within the individuals in question and, to a man, those involved in our last two victories have shown they have the battling qualities we need to ensure we finish as high up the Sky Bet League One table as possible.
On that note, I’d like to congratulate Mitch Dickenson on making his league debut against Bury last Saturday. Like Jake Hessenthaler, Bradley Dack, Elliott List, Darren Oldaker and Greg Cundle before him, Mitch has progressed through the club’s academy into the first team.
I’m sure every Gillingham supporter feels a sense of pride when another player successfully graduates from our under-18s – I know I certainly do – and we owe a great debt to Bryan Bull, Mark Patterson and those coaches who work hard with our youngsters. Having watched our under-18s during this season’s FA Youth Cup run, I know that we have plenty more players capable of turning professional and making an impact in first-team matches before too long, which bodes well for the future of this club.
Mitch was helped through the Bury game by recent signing Zesh Rehman, who has had a big impact since joining at the end of February, and Max Ehmer. It’s important to remember that Zesh has played in the Premier League and Championship, so has great experience of English football, while Max has nearly made 200 career appearances despite only being 25.
Cody McDonald continues to be a great servant for the club, and I’m told his header last weekend moved him onto 78 goals for Gillingham FC. He’s now seventh in club’s all-time list, only 11 behind Ken Price.
It is great that our Kids 4 A Quid promotion for this fixture was received so positively by our supporters. As a club, we want to reach out to as many youngsters as possible and provide them access to professional football matches for as competitive a price as possible.
All fans are reminded that we are at home again on Tuesday against another promotion-chasing team, Bolton Wanderers. Our pre-match Build Your Own Burger meal package has once again proved popular, with a handful of spaces still available by contacting our commercial team on (01634) 350350.
As well as having five home games left after today, the bulk of our remaining away fixtures are within a couple of hours of the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. The travelling support has been fantastic this season and I hope to see plenty of you continuing to cheer on the side in the coming weeks away from home.
The encouraging atmosphere here against Southend United two weeks ago played a huge part in our deserved victory; a repeat of that backing this afternoon will again give the players a huge lift. Let’s make some noise!
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally