Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This is a small piece to explain why on Sunday afternoon, between 3pm and 5pm, my Twitter feed will be a mix of football, cursing, drinking, swearing and classic rock.

It’s that time of the year again! The last game of the football season, and my team (Gillingham) are in very real danger of being relegated from their current league (League 1) to the league below (League 2). At the moment we’re in 20th place – finishing 21st or below means we spend next season in a lesser league with lower quality, smaller attendances and less money from both league position and people watching. It’s not good.

Here’s the table as it stands:

As it’s three points for a win, and one for a draw, the only team below us who can overtake are Port Vale. Here’s how it could go.

If Gillingham win: it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere, we finish the season on 52 points and we stay up. There’s a party at the game, much is drunk in celebration.

If Gillingham draw: we finish on 50 points. We stay up IF Port Vale don’t win (i.e. they draw or lose). Even if they do win, if Bury lose heavily then they get relegated instead. Not an ideal situation as our fate is in the hands of others.

If Gillingham lose: we stay on 49 points. If Port Vale also lose, we stay up, drink, be merry, have fun. If Port Vale draw then we also stay up, unless we lose by a difference of seven goals or more (a slim possibility, odds on Bet365 are currently 1680/1 on such an event) in which case we finish on the same points and get relegated due to having an inferior goal difference (Goals Scored over the season minus Goals Conceded over the season). If Port Vale win, we’re down.

So, all things considered, the best outcome is if Gillingham go for a win, so we have our fate in our own hands. But how likely is this? Well, in our last game (at home, to Fleetwood - remember that name) we took the lead twice, before contriving to lose 3-2. Our match before that we lost 3-0 away at local rivals Charlton, a game I went to but the team didn’t really turn up at. Before that we won at home to Bristol Rovers, a team at the top end of the table, with two late goals that were rather lucky. Form is not on our side.

But what about the team we’re playing? We’re away at Northampton. They’re a few places above us, safe from relegation and ideally already thinking about their holidays, so in theory shouldn’t be that motivated. However it’s the last home game of the season so they’ll want to send their fans off happily with a win. Not only that, their manager (Justin Edinburgh) used to manage Gillingham until halfway through this season when he was fired – rumours are that the players turned against him and stopped putting in any effort (although that malaise has been in the squad since January 2016 so honestly, how would we know?) and as it’s always nice to get one over your ex, there may be added motivation there.

Port Vale are playing Fleetwood, who have promotion to play for (and beat us on Saturday as well) so a Vale win is by no means guaranteed, although they won at Walsall on Tuesday night. 

You may be feeling a small sense of deja vu. Haven't you read about Gillingham trying to escape relegation on this very blog, seven or so years ago? You'd be right. Things didn't go our way that time, and because of this I'm shouting down the urges to spend my day travelling to the Midlands to cheer on my team. Instead I'll be sitting on the couch as my wife plays Stardew Valley, listening to radio commentary and refreshing Twitter while drinking in celebration or dismay. Come join me! It'll be fun.