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01/02: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 18/11/01
"Shoot any goddamn baloney you like so long as it's seven reels long"
By Howard Reed

The quote in the title comes from the Tim Burton film 'Ed Wood', starring Johnny Depp as the infamous 'worst filmmaker of all time'. When issued with the above remit by a studio executive, Wood returned a week later with 'Glen or Glenda', a quixotically incoherent extended screen test of a movie, starring a transsexual in an angora sweater, a character he'd based on his own predilection for women's clothing.

At this point I'd love to spill the beans that Gillingham player manager Andy Hessenthaler is planning his own movie about the club, called 'Gills or Gillians' and featuring players dressed up as the blue and white teddy bears and bizarre 'Tommy key ring' for sale in the club's online shop, but I can't. Because it simply isn't the case. But that starting quote came into my head when Matt, who usually writes these previews, rang me and asked me if I'd like to do this one. He pretty much said, "write any goddamn baloney you like." And so far I have.

But that the polished glint of actual research into Watford's opponents in the corner of my eyeball? Well, I know a few things. My brother, who works as a brewery manager and was stationed in Maidstone for six months, said that Gillingham - or any of the 'Medway towns' for that matter, Rochester, Chatham, it all seems to be one big splurge on my map - were no place to be caught walking alone at night - or maybe in the afternoon. Even Maidstone was not without its harrassments, as Frank Spencer would put it. Challenged by two spotty teenagers in the street, my brother laid one out neatly with a Sainsburys carrier bag full of cranberry juice cartons, and the other one scarpered.

So if that was the human face of Kent, bring in the robots now, please. Even the M2 road, which runs past Gillingham, looks like a false start at a fast route to the Channel, abandoned in favour of the M20. Oh, and Connex South Eastern, who run the railway along the North Kent coast, have finally bought new Swedish electrified trains to the old World War I 'slam door' rolling stock. But they can't run more than five at once out of the hundred they have bought without blowing the power supply for the whole south-eastern network. This makes even Railtrack (RIP) look good... it would be nice if the same applied to football. "Sorry, Sir Alex, but I've got Powergen on the line and they say we can't field Beckham, Giggsy and Van Nistelrooy at the same time or the floodlights go off". Subbuteo will hopefully provide us with a new version of the game with electrified players. Might break the PFA strike....

My cursory investigation into the Gillingham line-up via the club's official website revealed that in the match report for their previous game at Crewe (a 0-0 draw) they played two number 4s. Simon Osborn and Paul Smith. This may have been a composite player, a bit like in some of the old arcade games where if two players linked their ships together they got a super-vessel which could fire and drop bombs at the same time. Unfortunately it was a large target and was usually killed by the aliens within five seconds. Nevertheless, watch out for a large player with two heads and four legs in the number 4 shirt.

The superbly named Iffy Onoura looks likely to start up front. Defender Barry Ashby had a good game against Crewe after being reprimanded by Hessenthaler for a stinker against the dreaded Manchester City, and so looks likely to start again. The keeper will be Vince Bartram, named after an obscure fifties secret agent. Recent Gills form has not been spectacular, with only one league win in eight (at home to Walsall), so the Hornets should stand a good chance down in Kent.

To wrap up, I'll leave the last words to the likes of 'bonkytheclown' and 'HessysNo1Fan' on the Gillingham message board at They appear to be outnumbered by Millwall supporters on the board at the moment, and the main discussion appears to be how many 'caravans and transit vans' will make it up to the Den for Gillingham's game there on Saturday 24th. I guess that a team like Millwall represents the most obvious 'local' rival to the Gills, who are geographically isolated in the Nationwide league. In fact, everything on the message board is bloody Millwall. Are the home supporters even going to turn up for the Watford game?

Certainly a good number of yellow and red scarves will be climbing into those troop transporters at London Bridge for the cattle-ride out into Medway. And, even more bizarrely, the game's on a Sunday evening. Perhaps because they figure that if you get on the train at Saturday lunchtime, you'll just about crawl into Gillingham station by 5.30 on Sunday night, what with all the engineering works.

Which means that, as Ed Wood would have said, "this one's a wrap" this "seven reels' worth"? Will I ever be allowed to make another?