The Fly Away American (in Kent)

by The Fly Away American (in Kent), with Jessica Galbraith Thursday, June 13 2013

Hello KentOnline readers!


Welcome to my inaugural post here on KentOnline. This blog will follow my travels around Kent, as well as the UK. I am visiting new attractions, taking part in fun acitivities, and attending events around Kent every week. Check in every Thursday for my 'Travel Thursday' column. I will give you tips, share my sucessess and failures, and write about living in Kent as an American expat. 

The short and sweet: My name is Jessica, I am originally from a small town in Texas. (Population >300) I studied Asian Studies at University where I met my other half who was studying abroad from Holland. After a few years of dating, I moved with our daughter to a suburb of Amsterdam. Two years ago we relocated to Folkestone, which we absolutely love!

I look forward to sharing my travel experiences with all of you. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @flyawayamerican and Facebook  as well as my main blog The Fly Away American.

Don't forget to share your suggestions on the best places to see in Kent!




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Categories: Budget | Facebook | Family Life | Football | History | Nostalgia | Tourism | travel | kent

Gills looking Myles better

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, August 22 2012

Those that witnessed Myles Weston’s opening performances for the Gills will be forgiven for getting a bit excited.

Not since the days of Matt Jarvis have the Gills had a winger to make full-backs quake in their boots.

He may not be Jarvis class, but Myles Arthur Euguene Wesley Weston – his full name according to Wikipedia - certainly proved too hot to handle for Wycombe in the opening periods of Tuesday night’s game and that pace is something that has been badly lacking at Gills in recent seasons.

On Tuesday they were able to use Weston as predatory attacker in the first half and then, when up against it with ten men, the Gills were able to feed him the ball and let him do what he liked as an outlet to give the rest of the team some much needed recovery time.

Gills, under Martin Allen, are set up with just three midfielders and someone sat infront of the Back four (Jack Payne on Tuesday). It means the full-backs are required to get forward as often as possible, which does tend to suggest a winger is not required.

But Weston has shown versatility already. His favoured position is on the left flank, where he made an impressive substitute showing at the weekend, but on Tuesday he went upfront with Danny Kedwell and appears to have been given license to roam.

He is fast and direct and it is just a shame his early run down the flank on Tuesday, where he jumped two sliding tackles and even got the home fans off their seats, wasn’t rewarded with a goal. A fine save denied him a really special moment.

But no doubt we will eventually see a run and finish, assuming Weston can maintain that quality, and there is no reason he can’t. He is young, he has dropped down a level and he just wants to play games and express himself. Allen seems set to give him that opportunity.

Consistency, like all lower division players, will be his biggest obstacle.

Another to have impressed since signing has been Charlie Allen. He will be facing doubters after being signed by his father but young Charlie is proving what a class player he is. And again, it is his pace from midfield which is unsettling opponents. He also has an eye for a pass, like the one he served up for Danny Kedwell to open the scoring on Saturday.

It is early days for both Weston and Allen but both, so far, have given the Gills so much more energy and certainly made them more entertaining to watch.


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Categories: Football | Gillingham FC | Gills

Sort your game out, FA

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, February 10 2012

I have every sympathy for Fabio Capello.


He was left with little option but to quit after his falling-out with the FA. Who wouldn’t want to get out when your employer fails to consult a senior member of staff on a crucial issue?


Too many employers - and the FA has a poor track record as a model employer - make arbitrary decisions at senior level without proper consultation or communication. It is a curse of much of modern business.


For a chief national coach paid £6m to have his captain stripped of the captaincy - granted, a more symbolic than critical role in football (unlike cricket) - without prior knowledge or consultation was crass and high-handed by the nabobs of soccer. 


I hold no brief for John Terry, but he should have been treated as innocent until proven guilty of alleged racist remarks.

Under the same principle, Harry Redknapp would have been suspended from management of Spurs when he was charged with alleged tax evasion. Sensibly, his employers kept faith in their key employee during a stressful time.


Fabio was misguided to air his concerns on Italian TV but his limited English language skills – and fury at the decision - probably prompted that.


He should have gone after the World Cup fiasco, but the FA failed to act when they should have done. Now they have acted when they should not have done.


It’s another object lesson in how not to do HR – and PR for that matter.


Now the FA must up its game on senior staff recruitment.  With a pretty miserable record on hiring England managers since the exceptions of soccer knights Alf Ramsay and Bobby Robson, few fans will bank on them or their headhunters getting it right next time - with or without ‘Arry.

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Categories: Football

No signings - no panic

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, May 24 2011


Cody McDonald and Andy Barcham have said no to Gills and Kevin Maher could follow

GILLINGHAM are being snubbed from all angles at the moment but luckily we are still in May and so there is no need to panic.

Andy Hessenthaler currently has an 18-man squad at his disposal, albeit seven of whom have no first team experience, so it looks like being a busy summer for the Gills boss.

Cody McDonald won’t be here next season, which I suppose is no surprise as he will have plenty of offers at his door, while Andy Barcham has also got better offers on the table.

Adebayo Akinfenwa looks set to also depart. He heads away on holiday on Wednesday and with bigger clubs apparently sniffing around it is no shock to hear Hess say he doubts the big man will be sticking around. He waited until well into pre-season before signing on at Priestfield last season and it looks likely he will bide his time again. The Gills would be better to say thanks but no thanks and move on.

Chris Palmer appears to be moving back up to the Midlands and there is no news on Kevin Maher at the moment, as he has been on holiday.

A budget cut at the club means their deals won’t be as good as they had hoped so no doubt they are looking around for what better offers they can get. Both Palmer and Maher impressed last season so perhaps they think they deserve more. Can they be replaced? Certainly.

Joe Martin is supposed to be tying up a deal and expect that to be concluded soon. At least that’s one staying!

It could mean that out of the five players Hess offered deals four will have said no. But fear not.

The market for free-agents is still huge and Hess and his team have been non-stop trying to bring people in. Last week the Gills boss was as busy as he had been all season, fielding calls from agents, representatives managers and when he got a spare five minutes the press.

Jon-Paul Pittman, who played for Wycombe last season, was brought to Priestfield for talks but shortly after leaving signed for his local club Oxford.

For fans of the U’s they may be happy to see boss Chris Wilder filling his squad early, with Ryan James and Tony Capaldi also checking in for next season. But this is no time to rush your business.

It is doubtful that the Gills can compete for the signature of the likes of Clayton Donaldson (Lg 2 top scorer last season) and when I asked Hess about Marvin Morgan, a player who was put to them last season, he didn’t seem overly keen.

It shouldn’t be doom and gloom now though. Hess has the chance to mould the team the way he wants it.

Could the Gills be set to raid Dover? Matt Fish and keeper Ross Flitney have yet to sign terms there and Hess will always be linked to some of the players down Crabble.

It is certainly time to move on and for Hess to say to those players who may be wavering on new deals, see you later.

Of course we all want to hear about new signings now, but many players are still actually being paid by their former employers at the moment, ahead of their contracts expiring in July. It means there is a certain reluctance to announce signings. Some are sitting on a beach taking it easy.

Stevenage and Torquay don’t even know what division they will be playing in next season so the Gills at least have a headstart on them.

Patience at this stage is definitely the key.

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Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Gills set for transfer battle

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, May 17 2011

Gillingham’s decision to release eight players last week leaves plenty of room for new blood and there is no shortage of players available.

The Gills won’t have a mighty purchasing power but with hundreds of players available for free they shouldn’t need it.

It looks like boss Andy Hessenthaler wants a squad of 18 players with experience to handle League 2 next season.

By taking out the youngsters, that leaves him about seven or eight players short, so we can expect plenty of activity in the coming weeks.

Top of his priority will be a keeper and several strikers.

Last season Alan Julian and Lance Cronin battled for the number 1 shirt but personally I feel it would be better to spend big on one decent keeper than have two lesser talents. With first year pro Daren Hawkes as back-up they will have cover in case of emergencies and there are always plenty of decent keepers available for short-term loan if needed.

That leaves seven more spaces and four of those need to be utilised in attack.

Dennis Oli was hampered by injury last season and Stefan Payne is still raw so experience is a must up-front.

There are some recognisable faces in the free-transfer market with the likes of John Akinde, Rory Fallon, Ryan Jarvis, Scott McGleish, Leon McKenzie, Marvin Morgan, Jason Price and Calvin Zola all on the look out for new clubs.

Add a couple of them with Adebayo Akinfenwa and Cody McDonald, if (a big if) they both sign, and you really have got a quality front-line.

I’m sure Hess is looking at all options and if he has any cash to burn then possibly Gillingham-born Danny Kedwell could be prised away from AFC Wimbledon if they don’t get promoted from the Blue Square Premier.

Defensively the Gills obviously need a left-back and Joe Martin has already been offered a deal but he’ll need competition. Former Millwall man Andy Frampton maybe?

In central defence King, Richards, Lawrence, Essam and Davies offer plenty but maybe one more wouldn’t harm just incase.

There is an abundance of talent in central midfield but out wide the Gills still look lightweight, especially with Andy Barcham still not committing himself for another season. It’s one area in need of attention for the new season as the Gills missed options on the flanks with Barcham and Oli continually injured.

No doubt once Peterborough have finished with their play-off campaign Hess will be knocking on Chris Whelpdale’s door.

We saw at Priestfield what an injection of pace and enthusiasm can do with Barnet ripping the Gills defence apart.

So a busy summer awaits for the Gills and the battle now will take place with the cheque book.

Hess won’t be wanting to deal with money-grabbers though so if the big names don’t arrive it might not be a bad thing. We’ve seen in the past that a name matters for nothing. Finding someone with experience, talent and hunger and someone the club can afford are all things Hess will be dealing with as he begins the rebuilding task.

Who would you want to see at the Gills?

Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Gillingham limp out of their injury-plagued season

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, May 10 2011

Gillingham's Danny Jackman reflects on 3-1 defeat at Chesterfield

With Gillingham’s recent track record in end-of-day scenarios we should have known it would all end in tears on Saturday.

The Gills had only achieved their pre-match goal once in their previous six final day showdowns and after the recent catastrophes on home turf they had it all to do.

For so long though it looked as if the Gills would do the business. I had one eye on the match and one on the score-flashes filtering through during the afternoon. It made for a tense game.

In the closing stages Bury were beating Stevenage and Torquay were also losing their match. With McDonald’s equaliser at Chesterfield it left the Gills sitting pretty in sixth.

Cue defensive meltdown. The Chesterfield left-back Scott Griffiths twice got in behind the back four and twice put the ball on a plate for his team mates to score. For the Gills they had got within 14 minutes of a play-off spot but eventually showed their weakness.

This wasn’t all about that one game though for Gillingham. It should never have come down to that. After beating Rotherham so well it was criminal of them to then face Macclesfield and get well beaten on home soil. While the away form sent the Gills down last season, it was ironically their poor home form that keeps them in League 2 for another year.

Financially it may not be a disaster but fans will hardly be excited about another year travelling to the likes of Hereford, Burton, Morecambe, Torquay and now Plymouth.

On paper the Gills should have got promoted but those players who should have guided the team to League 1 spent more time with physio Steve Allen (who, after his exploits at the end-of-year award night, seems destined for a spot on x-factor!).

Last season’s player-of-the-year Andy Barcham wasn’t fit from start to finish and nobody was able to see the best of him.

Simon King, well we all know about him and next year looks like being make-or-break for his career. Fingers crossed he is over the worst of his problems.

Dennis Oli was injured for most of the season, Curtis Weston barely got a run-out because of injury, Garry Richards was in the treatment room for much of the campaign. Chris Palmer started the season well but a training injury ruined his second half.

Danny Spiller was out for a while, so was Cody McDonald at the start of the season. Maybe had he been fit from the off he might have helped them get over the relegation hangover quicker.

There were so many players who were unable to get up to full match speed and it showed in their performances. They must have been as frustrated as the fans.

The Gills were short of options in attack at the end of the season as budget constraints meant Hess had to rely on Adebayo Akinfenwa to play every minute of every game. He really did need someone with experience to come off the bench late on in games.

Unfortunately the budget was already spent but who could have envisaged having so many players on the sidelines?

The injury list may look like an easy excuse but how can a team achieve anything without their best players? A consistent team breeds consistent results but rarely did we see that last season.

Fans cursed the team’s reliance on pumping balls up to Akinfenwa, but then without Oli and Barcham on the flanks, the options were pretty limited.

Let’s hope Mr Allen is nowhere near as busy next season and Hess can assemble a side that starts the season fit and continues that way. Injuries will always occur but it’s rare to get so many long-term ones. It really ruined the season.

When you see players like Oli and Fuller limping into the end-of-season awards-do on crutches it does highlight what has been, for me, the biggest problem this season.

The retained list will be out this week and Hess will be already on the phone trying to build for next season. It clearly wasn’t a good season but then it could be worse.

Not only do I now have to report on League 2 football again, but my team Lincoln were relegated to non-league at the weekend and I don’t see them coming back for a long time.

There is always someone worse off!

**If you have time today log into at 1pm for the live Q&A session. Come along and contribute to the discussion.

Picture: Barry Goodwin.

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Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Three-way battle for final play-off positions

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, May 3 2011


Ian Hendon, Andy Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall look on in despair on Saturday

It should never have got to this stage but somehow Gillingham will once again be fighting for something on the final day of the season.

Home form has really been woeful in recent weeks and if they are still playing League 2 football next season then they can look at that as one reason for the failure to climb out of the division.

How ironic that it was their terrible AWAY from last season that got them into this mess in the first place.

After going on such a long unbeaten run they really have hit the skids at the worst possible time.

So, it’s down to the final game, and Gillingham not only have to get a result themselves but rely on Torquay and Stevenage slip up.

Two of Torquay, Stevenage and Gillingham will jump onto the play-off bandwagon and stand a chance to win a place in League 1.

One thing not helping the Gills is that goal difference tally (worsened considerably after the last two home shockers).

A five goal swing is needed to over-haul Stevenage. It could still be possible for Andy Hessenthaler’s men to lose 1-0 and Stevenage to be beaten 6-0 and the Gills go into the play-offs (courtesy of scoring more goals during the season!) Not likely I know.

Or even better, Gills win 6-0 and Stevenage 1-0 and going up that way. That, though, is clearly ridiculous.

The Gills then will need at least a point, against a side who need just a point more themselves for the League 2 title, and then rely on results elsewhere. So what of the two other games that count?


If only Rotherham had beaten Aldershot at the weekend, instead of drawing 2-2, then they too would have had an outside chance of making the play-offs and maybe I would have been a bit more confident of them doing something against Torquay. The Gills made Rotherham look ordinary and deservedly won the match at their place. It could have been different though had Adam Le Fondre started the match. He had one great chance, after coming off the bench, but miscued in front of goal thanks to a bobble on the awful pitch at the Don Valley.

Torquay are a form side, without a loss in 11, but like when the Gills went on their unbeaten run they have drawn many of those matches including the last four. The Gulls should have beaten league leaders Chesterfield on Friday night, denied only by the woodwork, but can they perform away from home? They were held 3-3 last time away at Burton so this one is by no means a certainty.

Rotherham are the out-of-form team and have failed to beat struggling Northampton and Aldershot in recent weeks. So I’m going with form on this one and predict a Torquay win.

So that leaves Gillingham relying on the next game.


Both teams have something riding on this as Stevenage, currently one place above the Gills on goal difference, face an already-promoted Bury side who need a win to stand any chance of clinching the league title.

Bury need the Gills to beat Chesterfield to do that and in turn the Gills need Bury to beat Stevenage!

This could be the key game for the Gills as Bury are a formidable outfit away from home.

They won’t want to finish the season with another defeat, having lost to Wycombe last weekend, and with the title a possibility they will be going all-out for the win.

Stevenage, like the Gills, had a disaster last weekend and slipped up 2-0 against relegation-threatened Northampton.

Of the promotion hopefuls Stevenage have the worst home record and they are going up against a team with the best away stats in the division.

I’m going for a narrow Bury win here (not 6-0!), which really does open the door for Gillingham.

But it still means the Gills need a point at Chesterfield. Hess’ men are doing the business away from Priestfield at the moment and this really would be a big one! 

How do you think the final weekend will end? Comment below.

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Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Torquay appeal could throw play-offs into disarray

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Wednesday, April 27 2011

THE League 2 table might make better reading for Gillingham fans after Monday’s win but things may not be as clear-cut as they seem.

Had it not been for a one-point deduction handed out to Torquay at the start of this month by the Football League then the Seagulls would be sitting sixth and the Gills would still be in eighth - a place outside of the play-offs.

Torquay’s crime was to field a player in the game against Hereford who wasn’t registered before the transfer deadline. Ironically, Hereford committed the same offence in the same game and were hit by a three-point deduction. 

League 2 table

The deadline for registering an appeal against the decision is on Wednesday, May 4, four days after Torquay’s crucial match against Chesterfield on Friday night.

If Torquay lose that game they head into the final weekend with the real possibility of missing out on the play-offs. That point could very well be significant. The Torquay board must decide by the middle of next week whether to lodge an appeal and in doing so possibly throwing the whole of the play-offs into disarray.

The Football League would need to take swift action as the first leg of the League 2 play-offs are due to take place just 10 days after the appeal deadline. It could get very messy.

Torquay’s official comment as of today was "no comment" and apparently there was a board meeting to discuss matters on Wednesday afternoon.

Gillingham fans will no doubt be quite keen for an official statement from Torquay to let people know whether or not they will appeal. The silence will leave everyone in suspense until Wednesday.

In the decency of fair play surely they have to show their cards now, before they face Chesterfield on Friday. If they were to lose that and then appeal it wouldn’t be seen as very sporting.

The Football League will no doubt look down badly at the club if an appeal throws the end of season into disarray. They are already facing criticism over the on-going will-they, won’t-they saga over a possible points deduction for Championship leaders QPR  – over a different matter entirely.

Torquay need to make a decision now and in the future the Football League need to be more decisive and act quicker. It’s ludicrous to be heading into the final fortnight of the season with so many grey areas.

What if the season ended with the current League 2 table as it is? Torquay would miss out by a point and the Gills would be in the play-offs courtesy of that point deduction. No doubt the Gulls fans wouldn’t be too happy.

Meanwhile Hereford are now battling against relegation because of the three points they were deducted for the same offence. It could well cost them their Football League status. Three points were deducted because they won the game against Torquay.

Even the difference in the points deduction seems madness. The same offence - different punishments. It’s not as if Torquay gained anything from the match so why lose a point?

It’s a bit of a shambles all-round and let’s hope it doesn’t cloud the end of what has been an exciting League 2 season.

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Categories: Football | Gillingham FC | Gills

Play-offs not so much of a lottery

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, April 19 2011

Gillingham celebrate promotion at Wembley in 2009

GILLINGHAM look primed for having to make do with a play-off place once more but just how much of a lottery will it be?

Looking at the statistics suggests that the old cliche, ‘the table doesn’t lie’ rings true when it comes to the play-offs.

If Gillingham were to finish the season in seventh then they would be treading a very lonely path when it comes to clinching promotion.

Since the play-offs in the basement division started in their current format just two clubs in the past 22 years have ended the season in seventh and gone onto win the final.

The sensible money would be on those finishing, not surprising, in the place directly below the automatic promotion spots. Those clubs finishing fourth (or fifth in 1991) have claimed promotion 12 times from the 22 play-offs.

The most losing finalists belong to those finishing fifth and the worst performers are those finishing in sixth and seventh.

When Gillingham got promoted through the play-offs at this level last time, in 2009, they ended the regular season sitting fifth.

In a break from tradition Dagenham bucked the trend last season by finishing seventh and winning the final, while at the same time ruining the theory that teams in form usually due well. Morecambe surged through the last three games, winning all of them, before promptly losing 6-0 to Dagenham in the play-off semi.

And what about the play-off hangover?

Well Morecambe are no pushovers as we saw at Priestfield on Saturday but they currently sit 15th in League 2 and this season have been more concerned with relegation than promotion.

Dagenham are fighting to desperately avoid a swift return back into League 2 and Aldershot have done little better than Morecambe.

The only team with a chance of enjoying something this season are Rotherham, but they look just one more defeat from missing out on this year’s play-offs.

And spare a thought for Lincoln, whose fans may well be thinking of what might have been. They made the play-offs in five consecutive seasons, reaching two finals, but never got promoted. This season they are hovering a little too closely to the relegation battle.

Gillingham’s early season woes mean their automatic promotion hopes lie in the hands of other people but can go into the play-offs knowing it’s no lottery. The best teams usually win and the Gills are currently proving unbeatable (even if they are drawing too many times).

Could they still make the automatics? Well if Torquay beat Wycombe on Friday and the Gills beat Barnet then the gap closes to two points. Would it then be too much to ask for Gills to claim a top three place with three games to go...?


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Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

Gills count cost of League 2's stay-at-home policy

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, April 12 2011

Just 193 Bradford City fans watch on at Priestfield

GILLINGHAM’S fans travelled in their numbers once more at the weekend to boost the home side’s coffers but not once this season in the league has anyone done the same in reverse.

The Brian Moore Stand has been a desolate place this season with League 2 sides failing to bring in numbers and much needed revenue for the Gills.

Last season there were bumper turnouts in the league from Leeds, Norwich, Southampton, Charlton and Millwall. This season there has been none.

The drastic reduction in attendances will certainly not be helping the already fragile bank balance and it highlights the real need for the Gills to get back into League 1.

While prize money, Football League payments and television share may not be much different in League 2, the money coming in the turnstiles from the Town End has certainly plummeted.

Up to and including the visit of Hereford and their 128 supporters, the turnstiles in the away end went round about 4,300 times. That’s the total amount of fans coming in from the previous 20 league games at Priestfield.

Consider the fact that in the final two home games of last season the Gills played Leeds and Southampton and between the two of them they brought 4,417 fans into Priestfield.

It doesn’t take a maths genius to see that Gillingham’s income is going to be drastically reduced this season largely by the scant away following from their League 2 counterparts.

The 64 who made the trip from Rotherham and the 62 from Accrington pale into sorry contrast with last season’s visits from Norwich (1,434), Brighton (1,206), Southampton (2,176), Charlton (2,304), Leeds (2,241), Millwall (1,933) and Southend (927).

That’s 12,221 fans by my calculations and if they were paying on average £15 a ticket that’s £180,000, not to mention programme sales etc.

It’s money that a club with a £13million+ overdraft and big losses in their recent accounts can really afford. No wonder the club are going all out for promotion this season. Another year in League 2 is going to really start hurting financially.

Meanwhile the Gills fans have been out in their numbers and not once this season has a visiting team brought to Kent the same numbers that have gone the other way for the reverse fixture.

Lincoln brought 178 fans to Priestfield back in August but the Gills took 559 the other way. Northampton came with 267 fans but the exodus from Kent numbered 886.

The biggest away crowd this season (apart from Dover’s 2,300 in the cup) has been Southend, with a modest 462, but that was still nowhere near the 926 who made the trip to Roots Hall.

No doubt the likes of Southend, Barnet, Stevenage, Aldershot and Torquay would miss the Gills if they went back up to League 1 after the fans from Kent have put plenty of money in their tills.

On Saturday the Gills are opening up the away end on the cheap for home fans. At last a good incentive to attract more home support, but it’s doubtful there will be much noise coming from the away fans.

Gillingham’s last three home games are against Morecambe, Barnet and Macclesfield - stand that next to the visits from Brighton, Leeds and Southampton from last season’s last three games and it is easy to see why everyone, not just the bank manager, wants to see League 1 football return to Priestfield.


Picture caption: Bradford, with 10,000 plus home attendances, bring a meagre 193 to Gillingham. (Pic by Barry Goodwin)




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Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Gills

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