Football is a game of opinions but it seems that one man’s decision has proved costly for Gillingham.
In January 2005 Andrew Crofts celebrated sealing a new three and a half year deal by scoring the winner against Plymouth in the Championship.
Four years later and the midfielder was playing Conference football for Wrexham after then manager Mark Stimson decided he wasn’t the man for him.
A player who was at one time rated to be the next big thing, and seemingly due to follow Matt Jarvis up the football pyramid, was ousted from the club never to kick a ball again for the team who he grew up with.
It hasn’t taken Crofts long to prove what a mistake that was - and what a costly one it has become for the Gills.
Crofts was born and raised in the Medway Towns and as a schoolboy played for Chelsea before settling into Gillingham’s academy.
At 16 he made his Gills debut and quickly started to become a much-loved figure in the squad.
Stan Ternent’s decision to hand him a contract extension in 2005 came on the back of some great performances. It was also security for the club, as they knew some big teams were starting to take interest in the youngster.
Ronnie Jepson, the man to step into the manager’s hot-seat following Neale Cooper’s brief and unsuccessful reign, was a big fan of Crofts and installed him as captain.
The arrival of Stimson in November 2007 was the beginning of the end for Crofts and Gillingham.
It is true that the player’s form dipped as the Gills sank into League 2, but Stimson’;s decision to strip him of the captaincy while the player was away on international duty with Wales in October 2008, was the final nail in Crofts’ Gillingham coffin.
Stimson’s comment that Crofts “was not too happy” was clearly an understatement.
Jepson had once labelled Crofts as “Mr Gillingham” but the player’s dedication to the cause was being questioned and that must have hurt a player who since his boyhood had given his all for the club.
Crofts was transfer listed and sent out on loan to Peterborough. He returned briefly before linking up with Wales assistant manager Dean Saunders at non-league Wrexham.
It was the start of the comeback for Crofts.
In the summer he was snapped up by League 1 Brighton, then managed by Russell Slade. Crofts became a regular in the side and when Gus Poyet was appointed manager he made him a key member of the side, eventually making him captain.
In May last year he moved to Norwich for a reputed £300,000 and on Saturday proved what a class act he is.
He scored both Norwich goals in the win against Barnsley, with the second a superb volley from the edge of the area, and is earning rave reviews once more at Championship level. A chance in the Premiership one day, with Norwich or someone else, surely isn’t out of the question.
I wonder what Crofts is worth now. A million pounds?
So what would Mr Stimson be making of it all? Perhaps he made up for it in the money made on Simeon Jackson - ironically now Crofts’ team mate at Norwich. You win some, you lose some.
On this occasion it’s been a massive loss for Gillingham.
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