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Gillingham fan speaks out after u-turn following a visit from chairman Paul Scally

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally’s controversial mission might be paying off.

He’s spent last week visiting disgruntled fans at their homes and work places - offering them their season-ticket money back.

Mr Scally claimed on Thursday to have written £10,000 worth of cheques and there were a number of fans left to visit - many of them upset over the appointment of Steve Evans as manager.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham chairman Paul Scally Picture: Ady Kerry

One of those fans, Gary Payne - a long-time Gills fan having first watched the team back in 1969 - was visited by Mr Scally and was then invited back to the club to have a chat with Evans.

That conversation has persuaded him to give the new manager a try and many other supporters appear to be thinking the same.

Mr Payne wrote about his experience after many of Mr Scally’s critics questioned whether the chairman had visited anyone at all.

Last Tuesday Mr Payne answered the door to Mr Scally and admitted at first he wasn’t too impressed.

He said: “Paul Scally turns up at my house offering me a refund on my season ticket as my Tweet (sent to the club asking for a refund) suggested he’d lost my confidence in his decisions.

“My initial reaction was one of anger because the cheque he presented also refunded my son’s season ticket, which I thought was out of order - I also thought it was a bit of an overreaction to a tweet. I’d like to sleep with Kylie Minogue but doubt if I put that on Twitter she’d turn up on my door step, might give it a go though.

“However, I do understand the pressure the chairman’s under at the moment. As his annual report shows he’s getting stick from all angles and the appalling abuse he’s getting is clearly affecting him.

“As the chairman and I discussed things I think it dawned on him I wasn’t one of the abusive ‘Scally out’ crowd, just someone sticking to their principles.”

New Gillingham manager Steve Evans Picture: Ady Kerry
New Gillingham manager Steve Evans Picture: Ady Kerry

Mr Scally has threatened to quit because of the abuse he has been getting from fans.

Gills fan Gary, 57, who was renewing his season ticket for the 41st consecutive year, had decided before Mr Scally’s visit that he wasn’t going to pursue a refund and would be happy to leave his seat empty, said: “Paul admitted that previously he hated Steve Evans but had got to know him really well over the last couple of years and that he’s nothing like the cartoon character you see on the touch line.

“My comment was ‘so, if you were in my position and you still had your previous views regarding Steve Evans how would you of felt regarding his appointment’.

“To be fair to the chairman, he understood where I was coming from, but said ‘if you were to get to know him you’d change your view’. To which I relied, ‘ok, can I meet him?’. To which the reply was ‘absolutely, how about Thursday afternoon!’

“I spent around two hours at the club. I couldn’t of been made more welcome, I spent around 45 minutes speaking to the chairman and much the same speaking to Steve Evans, with Paul Raynor (Gills’ new assistant) joining us halfway through.

“The contents of those conversations will remain private, but we covered quite a range of things, including family, work and of course football. The chairman was absolutely right, both Steve and Paul are nothing like you expect.

“I left the club with a completely different opinion of both and actually think they’ll be good for Gillingham Football Club - really didn’t expect to be saying that a couple of weeks ago.

“I’d urge anyone not happy with Steve Evans' appointment to get themselves along to the open mic night on June 4, you might be surprised.”

Fans will be able to ask Evans questions at Priestfield during an open evening.

Gillingham assistant Paul Raynor, with chairman Paul Scally and new boss Steve Evans at Priestfield Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham assistant Paul Raynor, with chairman Paul Scally and new boss Steve Evans at Priestfield Picture: Ady Kerry

Mr Payne, who was born in Gillingham and now lives in Rochester, was prepared for criticism when he revealed what had happened but the response on Facebook from many fans was quite the opposite.

Lee Doyle wrote on a fans' forum: “I have had my reservations about Steve Evans. But maybe he can take us forward and fair play to Scally too. We need to get behind them.”

Mark King is also prepared to give the new manager a chance, saying: “I hated Stimson but still followed my team, I will see what SE brings to the party.”

Liam Fitzgerald was of a similar opinion, praising Mr Payne for his comments, saying: “Fantastic, stood by your guns but are man enough to admit you where wrong, fair play to you.

“I as well was disappointed at the appointment, but said I would give him a chance to prove us all wrong, it's not the first time a club has appointed a controversial figure and I doubt it will be the last”

Kevin Draper commented: “Let's hope Evans turns out to be the real deal.”

Gillingham fans have been divided on the appointment of Steve Evans Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham fans have been divided on the appointment of Steve Evans Picture: Ady Kerry

Fellow Gills fan Gary Edwards is backing the team, saying: “Now let’s all get behind the lads and look forward to a great season.”

Brian Thundow, a season ticket holder for nearly 40 years, added: “We need to now get behind the team, pull together and see where the new management team take us.”

Darren Taylor is convinced Mr Evans is the right man for the club, saying: “This is an exciting appointment and one that is much needed at GFC.”

Another long-time supporter Sally Mudge added: “Still not happy about the appointment and the way it's been handled but I'll hold my views until I see what happens.”I will continue to support GFC regardless of who's at the helm”

Andrew Scott praised the chairman, adding: “Great to see Paul Scally listening and not being afraid to go out there and face the fans and his critics head on. UTG.”

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