Monday, 21 April 2014

Gills Ladies - great game, great day out

I have been a fan of Gillingham Football club for as long as I remember. It wasn't until I was a student that I paid any real attention to their results and squad though and I took more of an interest in football in general.

I even started attending games when I could get up from Winchester to see them and visit my Granddad who lived nearby. I even travelled to Plymouth to watch Argyle beat us 2-1 in a stand full of Plymouth fans.

I've seen us win and lose, even going to Wembley for the Second Division playoff final (Which was the last game I went to see) and taking Sam to see her first game and my friend Caroline to see her home team Lincoln City vs. Gillingham (she wore her Lincoln shirt under a blue fleece but was still paranoid that the stewards and other Gills knew she wasn't "One of us"!!!)

I haven't been in quite some time though. I may live near enough on top of the ground but a combination of working two weekends in three, the fact that if I am off I have both of my children who... well I didn't think they would enjoy a game... and more importantly, it is bloody expensive for a day out when the park or swimming are so much more affordable.

This has never slowed my support though and I continue to watch them from afar. I also have kept an eye on the Ladies team.

There has always been a stigma attached to Women's teams and football. Lad culture always portrays it as half a sport or painfully amateur. Of course for those who have seen Women's games will know this is bollocks.

I first got into women's football watching the German Women's National team play on-line. I'd been meaning to go and see the Gills ladies play for some time but, like I said, taking my kids was always going to be a challenge, I can't get them to sit down long enough to eat their food or watch a movie let alone 90 minutes of game.

Last week I wandered into the Gills store on the off chance with the idea of buying my kids football shirts, whilst in the queue I was telling Sophie that Ollie was going to grow up playing professional football and would one day lift the World Cup so Daddy could retire. A very indignant Sophie announced that she would play football for Gillingham and win the World cup. Any way as a proud parent I duly posted this little story on Twitter and a picture of Sophie in her Pink Gills Shirt. Later that day we were invited to bring Sophie to watch one of the Lady's teams home games and for her to be a mascot!

Thankfully due to a paperwork error I found myself off this Sunday and the whole family went up to the Chatham town ground on Maidstone road to watch the Gills play Cardiff City in the league (they are placed first and third respectively!).

Despite the weather, which was attrocious, the game was fantastic and fast paced with Gillingham going up 2-0 by half time. Within five minutes of the Second half it was 3-1 and finished at 4-2 despite the torrential rain.

Sophie in the stands cheering on the Blues

I've watched a lot of football over the years of varying quality and I must say that this game ranks amongst the top games I've seen and hand over fist many times better than I've ever seen the Gillingham Men's team play. There was a lot of personal skill, team work, tactics and a will to win. Don't let the score line fool you, Cardiff were a determined opponent and didn't take stop trying to equalise and played some fantastic football as well.

The club were wonderful as well. Sophie was treated to a signed programme, a trip into the locker room to meet the team and manager, got a personal photo with her favourite player (Bonnie Long) and she even went to high-five the team as they ran onto the pitch for luck. We were also allowed into the club house to keep warm before and after the game as well which was most welcome! She had a great time and has announced that she does want to play for the team one day (fingers crossed!).

Getting to the ground is fairly easy, there is a car park, a 101 bus stop just outside and the train station is all of twenty minutes walk. Ticket prices are £3s (yes, £3!!!!) or £1.50 if you have a Medway City card and under 16s are free. Programs are £1 too. The cafe is small but inexpensive with Hot chocolate being £1, Chips £1.60, Burger or Hotdog about £2.50 but they do other beverages and food at similar prices right next to the pitch so that when you're queueing up you don't miss the game!

If you have never seen the Gills ladies play - you really have to! It is a great day out and both my kids had a fantastic time, Sophie was up in the stands cheering on the blues and shouting encouragement with her little lungs and the boy clapped and cheered everytime we did and Sam and I enjoyed a really cracking game!

They have two upcoming games that desperately need your support. The final of the Ryman Cup is being played at Chatham FC on 8th may at 7.45pm against Haverhill Rangers and the final League game is being played on the 18th May at home at 2pm against Coventry city which could be the title decider!

If you want to see a dynamic Gillingham team win a league with flare and skill then get up to Chatham on the 18th and watch the Ladies team, I certainly will be doing all I can to get there with the family to watch.
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