Date:Thursday April 24 2008
The team at Vital Gillingham were kind enough to take time to answer our questions prior to our away clash at Priestfield on Saturday.
Q: What were your expectations going into the season?
-A: I fully expected us to get relegated. We had an appalling manager and an even worse squad which he was mindlessly allowed to assemble. We lost 1-0 at Cheltenham on the opening day with a back five of a total age of 172 and had two players sent off, which didn't help anyone's viewpoint of where the season was going. Fortunately, Jepson jumped before he was pushed in mid-September, but we then had almost two months without a manager, and while caretaker Iffy did okay at home, our away form remained a complete and utter embarrassment, as you folk can no doubt remember from our 'performance' at the County Ground, which is the single worst effort I've ever seen from a team of supposed professional footballers, and the only time I've ever walked out early. Stimson then came in and made a good start, and if you'd asked me in January, I would have said there was no way we'd go down, but the wins have just dried up, we've not scored enough goals and the fat lady is getting ready to sing.
Q: Who is to blame for your current plight, Gillingham were expected to fight for a playoff birth?
-A: We never expected us to fight for the play-offs. In our Vital Gillingham poll last month (http://www.gillingham.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=104897), 41% of folk put the blame on Jepson, and I couldn't agree more. His policy of 'experience over anything' cost us dear, as, for example, Leon Johnson and Frannie Collin were allowed to leave in the summer, while Ian Cox got a new contract and rubbish like Craig Armstrong was signed. When Stimmo took over, he inherited a terrible squad and I don't think even he realised the size of the task on his hands. Fortunately, he's managed to ship out a lot of the Jepson dross - of the clown's 10 summer signings only Derek Stillie, Simon Royce (both keepers!) and Simon King could play this weekend, with your mate Aaron Brown never playing for us again, Efe Sodje, Delroy Facey and Barry Cogan all shipped out on loan and Armstrong, David Graham and Steve Lomas all leaving in January. The other man to blame is the chairman, who told us last summer that he was putting the ticket prices up to increase the wage budget so that we could win promotion to the Championship this season. He's since sold the ground to a company owned by himself to reduce the £12m debt that he got us into, and referred to every fan who chanted against him in the recent loss to Crewe as a 'scumbag'. Slowly losing the plot and any support he may still have had.
Q: Are you disappointed that Mark Stimson has brought in a lot of non-league players with no experience?
-A: Not really, because with a couple of exceptions, they're a hell of a lot better than the dross we had when he got here. Left-back John Nutter is at least 10 times the player of Armstrong, midfielder Adam Miller is an absolute class act, and up front Dennis Oli and Simeon Jackson both have a lot of potential. Another midfielder, Stuart Lewis, is showing a bit of promise and Leroy Griffiths is a good impact player, and while Stuart Thurgood and Barry Fuller haven't set the world alight, I still think Stimson did the right thing - I don't think there were many League One clubs willing to sell their best players in January, so Stimson did what he could. It's ultimately come up short, but I'd rather have this lot than the previous miscreants.
Q: Do you think that Mark Stimson is the man to lead Gillingham forward?
-A: Absolutely 100%.
Q: What player should Swindon fans look out for?
-A: Simeon Jackson up front is very quick and very lively, but he's still learning at this level. At the back, Simon King is an absolute rock.
Q: Can you please tell the Swindon Town fans why Gillingham hate Swindon Town so much (from a Gillingham point of view)?
-A: Because you're scum. ;) Ha ha. Goes back to the 1970s, doesn't it and Ray McHale. I'm too young to remember it, but I believe there was a game in the 1970s where the ref stitched us up and there was a brawl in the tunnel that ended up with some of our players getting arrested. Then there was the play-offs in 1987, and I suppose it manifested a bit in the 19 years before the next game, and then the behaviour of your fans at Priestfield on your last visit didn't help matters.
Q: Do you think Gillingham will escape relegation?
-A: Not unless the footballing gods are feeling very generous. We realistically need at least four points - and our last game is at Leeds. We can stay up with one win, but we'd need Cheltenham to get a couple of hidings. I'm not confident.
Q: Your predictions for Saturday's match please.
-A: Home win. 2-0.
Vital Swindon Town would like to thank the Vital Gillingham team for taking time to answer our questions.
Date:Thursday April 24 2008
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