Sometimes a failure to act can cost football clubs hugely. This was the case with Gillingham as Oliver Monk from the great @thesportfiles attests in this post on the worst decision Gillingham ever made.
Battles against relegation are never won or lost in February, but back in 2010 the final nails in the Gillingham coffin where slowly being hammered in during a bitterly cold night at Priestfield stadium. My worst decision is not one that you’ll have to look in the history books to read about. Being of the younger generation my time supporting Gillingham began in the late nineties, so I will not be taking you back to the time where games were played in black and white. As a lower league club there of course have been many decisions throughout the years that have made fans around the ground think what is ‘going on here’, but for me the one that I have decided on really is the worst ever.
Thinking back through the years the first decision that sprang to mind was the replacement of the old town end terrace. This was a place where I have many memories, including some great games in the FA cup, replaced with our new “temporary” but very permanent structure: the Brian Moore Stand. At the time the change had to be made as the club where flying high in the championship so terracing was no longer allowed. Since then of course the clubs league position has plummeted, meaning the terrace would be fine in our current position in League Two.
Another awful decision happened in the summer of 2005 with the appointment of Neal Cooper as our manager. At the time it seemed like a great appointment, as the man brought a wealth of experience from his time at Hartlepool. Cooper left the club in November 2005 leaving behind the players he had signed; including his drinking buddies that he had brought in. Fans later found out that Mr Cooper liked a drink. 31st July 2007 brought a typical shocking decision as the club decided to sign ex West Ham and Northern Ireland midfielder Steve Lomas. It was obvious to fans from the first day that Mr Lomas had joined the club to collect his wage cheque each week and didn’t really care about his performances or the team. The Lomas experiment didn’t last long as he was released from this contract on 31st January 2008.
All these decisions for me do stand out in my mind but they are not the worst decision ever made during my time supporting the club. For that we have to go back to a cold depressing night at Priestfield 9th February 2010 to be precise. At this time I was completing my degree in Coventry and had travelled down for the two games occurring after an atrocious performance on the Saturday a 4-0 away drubbing at the hands of Brentford. I travelled to Priestfield for what was going to be one of the most important fixtures of the season. This was a proper relegation six pointer as Gills faced off against Tranmere Rovers. The first half past without incident, and as the weather got colder I was happy to escape back to the boardroom to warm up at half time as apart from a half chance for Luke Rooney and a great save from the Tranmere keeper from a Simeon Jackson effort there was little on the pitch to warm the crowd up.
Returning for the second half things went from bad to worse in the 68th minute of the game. Rovers took the lead with Ian Thomas-Moore scoring the goal at the Rainham end sending the stadium into silence. Searching for a response the fans looked towards the dugout to see something from Gills boss Mark Stimson, but nothing happened as the Gills searched fruitlessly for a goal. When the final whistle blew a chorus of boos engulfed the ground. The Gills had now gone eight matches without a win, a run that come the end of the season lead to the relegation of the team.
Eight games without a win, a team struggling to stay up and this is when the ‘Worst’ decision in my clubs history occurred. At this point the chairman had the chance to remove the manager from his position. Would this have meant that we would have avoided relegation? I guess we will never know, but a new manager normally brings a reaction from the players and would have given the crowd a much needed lift. At the end of the season, after another disgraceful performance at Wycombe the Gills were relegated back into League 2 a league that we still find ourselves in today. Stimson left the club that evening and the chairman later admitted that it was a mistake not to remove him after the Tranmere game. Scally told BBC Radio Kent: “I considered making a change after the home game against Tranmere.”I decided to stick with him, so I take full responsibility. I failed and he failed. Now we must look forward, rebuild and prepare for League Two.”
So for me the worst decision ever made by the powers that be at Gillingham Football Club occurred in 2010 when the chairman failed to remove Mark Stimson from his position as club manager.