The Monday Profile: Paul Scally
Scally himself pronounced the month leading up to the start of the season as perhaps the most significant in the club’s history and Gills fans flocked to salute him.Scally is one of football’s most flamboyant chairpeople. He took over in 1995, paying a penny for the ownership of a club in a poor state – using the proceeds gained from a photocopier business after his attempts to purchase his beloved Millwall were repulsed.Initially, he oversaw a dramatic reversal in fortunes under the management of Tony Pulis although relations were always stormy. The manager’s militarism would never sit easily with Scally’s interfering and an attempt to be allowed to play as a 40 year old in the final game of a season went down like a copper balloon with the unsmiling gaffer. The intention had been to win a bet with a pal that would have financed an end of season beano for the players in Barbados – Pulis was unamused.Having lost a never to be forgotten encounter with Manchester City in the 1998-9 play off final, Pulis was sacked for gross misconduct – a decision that was to lead to an unseemly court battle – and, to this day, Scally describes the now Stoke boss as “evil and despicable”. Scally himself was fined £10,000for correctly predicting City to beat his side in the showpiece game, albeit before the season started.Nor was this the only enemy made – Alan Liptrott, Chairman of the Gills Independent Supporters Club, suffered a six year ban from Priestfield after refusing to sell a domain name and the Kent Messenger group of newspapers also fell foul of the stadium bouncers (they now sponsor the Medway Stand).
But Gills also enjoyed their best years under Scally. Promotion was achieved the year after Pulis left with Wigan defeated at Wembley and Peter Taylor keeping the pot boiling. An historic eleventh place in the Championship was also achieved and current boss Andy Hessenthaler proved to be a true leader both on and off the pitch. There were also major improvements to infrastructure – Scally had bought £6 million’s worth of fixtures and fittings for £600,000 at a Millennium Dome clearance sale and a ground that he pronounced had been “a derelict khazi” when he arrived now had three shiny all seater stands and one temporary one for away supporters to get rained on.
Clearly, this first Chairman to feature in our Monday Profile series is a larger than life character and true entrepreneur. Now residing in Dubai, he has made no secret in the past of a desire to move the club to another part of Kent. The Medway towns, the centre of Rochester apart, constitute a curious pocket of low income neighbourhoods in a county and region that is one of England’s wealthiest and perhaps Scally feels a move to a richer locale will ultimately boost gates.
Either way, he probably has the wherewithal to make this happen. in advance of the club’s Annual General Meeting in August, he tabled a motion to alter the company’s articles of association in order to remove the requirement to hold AGMs at all – and he has been less than forthcoming on the details of that astonishingly inexpensive stadium buyback. Hands up those who would like to buy something for a tenth of the price you originally sold it for three years ago! Unanswered questions remain.