By Harley ThorneOver the next few weeks we will be taking a look at some of the sides that we will be taking on next season in SkyBet League One, today it's the turn of Gillingham.
Name: Gillingham FC
Nickname(s): The Gills
Stadium: Priestfield Stadium.
Distance: 172 miles from Bristol.
Last Season: 9th in League One.
Promoted to League One back in 2012-2013 after winning the League Two title, Gillingham are on the up having finished in their highest league position in 10 years last season.
The fans are no doubt relieved by their upturn in performance on the pitch, given their off-the-field issues in previous years.
Since 2002, the club has faced major financial difficulties. Various events played a part in this plight, including the collapse of ITV Digital, relegation from the championship, and the cost of refurbishing their stadium. In fact, in 2006, EDF Energy cut off power to their stadium after they failed to pay a £100,000 bill.
In 2008, it was reported that their debts were around £13 million – although they swiftly reduced this deficit with the sale of their home ground, Priestfield Stadium, to a new holding company. In a rather confusing turn of events, Priestfield Developments Ltd sold the stadium back to them only 3 years later – for just £1 million. Quite a deal for the Gills, who were so desperately in need of such luck.
They are now looking much more solid financially. In the 2012-2013 season, they received several unexpected cash windfalls – which helped them to pay off significant chunks of their debt. In particular the sale of Paulo Gazzaniga to Southampton, a large profit due to a sell-on clause for Matt Jarvis, and ongoing add-ons from the Ryan Bertrand to Chelsea deal.
Let’s move back to the pitch now, and it’s not particularly great news for Gasheads. We have not beaten Gillingham in four competitive games, a poor run stretching back to November 2009 when we beat them at The Memorial Stadium, 2-1.
Double promotion hero Chris Lines scored the opener before a Jeff Hughes penalty sealed the win. Since then, it’s been four losses and one draw, and a total of 11 goals conceded. Here’s hoping we can put an end to that when they visit us on Saturday 15th October.
Gillingham’s stand-out performer from last season, Bradley Dack, has been widely linked with a move away from the club. Crowned League One player of the season, Dack is an attacking midfielder that, at only 22 years old, has a wealth of experience in the division.
He describes himself as adopting a “free role behind the two strikers in the final third to go and pick up the ball, get into good positons, and create and score goals”. That’s quite a mouthful, let’s just call him at attacking midfielder.
Manager Justin Edinburgh is under no illusions of how difficult it will be to keep a hold of him however, describing him as “the catalyst of [our] team… full of energy, tenacious, quality and a top player – definitely Championship quality”. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, he also added that he “probably covers more ground that any other player”.
The latest club to make an official approach for Dack, our red friends from across the river [Bristol City], had a £2 million plus add-ons offer declined in the January transfer window. This would have been a club record fee received by Gillingham. A £2 million would likely be accepted this time around as the midfielder enters the final two years of his contract, and following a failed push for promotion. As of writing this, Dack remains their talisman.
A quick word on the manager, Justin Edinburgh. Joining the club in 2015 from Newport County after a fantastic spell that saw the club win promotion to League Two from the Conference.
He left the club 6th in League Two, and Newport are yet to hit those heights again since his move. He led the Gills to a 12 placed finish in his first season, before making solid progress to take them into a 9th placed finish last season.
The club have had a relatively quiet summer thus far, making only two signings. Midfielder Mark Byrne has joined from Newport County, who he signed in 2014 for The Exiles, as well as Bradford City midfielder Billy Knott. He will be hoping that he does not need another midfielder, and that he can hold onto Bradley Dack, in order to continue his progress made thus far – as they look to make the play-offs next season.
Want to be part of the action? Then purchasing your 2016/17 Season Ticket couldn’t be easier
Personal callers are welcome at Pirate Leisure at The Memorial Stadium or at The Supporters Club Shop 199 Two Mile Hill Road Kingswood, BS15 1AZ.
Alternatively Season Tickets can also be purchased over the phone by calling Pirate Leisure on 0117 909 6648 - option 1 (during office hours) or ‘199’ on 0117 961 1772 (during office hours) or online at www.brfctickets.com
Ambulant Disabled, wheelchair users and carers should contact Clare McDonagh directly, either in person or over the phone, on 0117 952 4001.