Changing the manager mid-season can often produce an instant impact but Paul Scally’s management changes haven’t always reaped rewards.
Martin Allen’s dismissal came about with the Gills on course for relegation. With just nine points coming from their opening 11 games the Gills chairman acted early.
Scally’s mid-season changes have gone wrong more times than right but at least new manager Peter Taylor has time on his side. He may be here on an interim basis but he remains odds-on to get the gig permanently, irrespective of results in the next few weeks.
Only a disastrous run of results will see Scally turn elsewhere. The Gills chairman may well be leafing through a few CVs but none are likely to better Taylor’s.
The managers from Scally’s early days, Tony Pulis and Taylor – during his first reign – both ended their spells at the end of a season – both following differing fortunes at Wembley.
Andy Hessenthaler – taking over from Taylor - may have guided the Gills to their highest position ever in their history but in 2004 his time was up. A 4-1 defeat at Crewe led to Hessenthaler’s departure, after the manager and chairman had a frank discussion about which direction the club were heading.
In came Stan Ternent and although the results improved, the situation didn’t. Hessenthaler had left the club sitting second from bottom, with 15 points from their opening 20 games, with their only wins coming against Leeds, Preston, Burnley and Wolves.
Ternent almost doubled the points-per-game ratio but too many draws proved costly. Many wished he had come in earlier, as the Gills dropped out of the Championship by the narrowest of margins. Just a single goal separated themselves from Crewe, who were safe.
Neale Cooper was next in the hot-seat, as Ternent returned back home up-north, following his first ever relegation. Cooper’s reign was short-lived and painful. An embarrassing FA Cup exit at Burscough was followed by a limp performance at Walsall and that was enough for Mr Scally to send the Scotsman packing.
Gills were sitting 21st in League 1 with 17 points from 17 games. This time around the new manager at the helm would have plenty of time to put things right. And no-nonsense Ronnie Jepson did just that. A six-game winning run towards the end of the season helped to keep the Gills comfortably safe from relegation, finishing 12 points clear of the drop, in 14th.
For Scally, it had turned into a shrewd move, although few chairmen would have kept Cooper in a job after a poor effort. Bad signings led to bad results and his hasty exit.
Jepson’s side finished the following season in 16th but Mr Scally was quick to act after a difficult start to the 2007/08 season. With five defeats from Gills’ opening six games, Jepson was gone. Gillingham were sitting third from bottom.
After a prolonged chase, Mark Stimson finally wriggled out of Stevenage and arrived at Gillingham at the start of November. Many of his trusted non-league stars followed him, creating a divide in the camp instantly. It also created a divide amongst the fans. Gills won just seven games that season under Stimson with the club getting relegated in the same position than which Jepson left – third from bottom.
So what now? Gills are sitting 17th and with just two wins behind them. Fortunately Taylor comes into a squad that seem united and up for the fight. It’s doubtful there will be many changes to personnel, although the football might change, with less long-ball and more freedom to express going forward.
Scally has acted early and few managers have as much experience as Taylor. There won’t be any more bold statements about smashing this, or smashing that. If the Gills are still sitting 17th at the end of the season, then it will be a change for the good.