Despite poor start to League One season
19 October ~ As recently as June I wrote that Martin Allen was settled for the first time in his managerial career, crucially enjoying the full backing of chairman Paul Scally. Throughout Gillingham's League Two title-winning campaign in 2012-13 Scally exploited every opportunity to publicly laud the achievements of his management team. Earlier this week, however, Allen was sacked with the club in 17th place. Scally has an unrivalled ability to bask in the glory of success yet shrink from any accountability during the downturns.
Something in his relationship with Allen splintered over the summer, and after a dispiriting opening six weeks of the campaign he issued an open letter to supporters. The objective was to rally the diehards, positively uniting the fanbase in the manner Allen himself expertly engineered en route to the League Two title. However, the sly undertone distanced himself from his manager and defended the perceived lack of investment in the squad over the summer.
Results were undeniably poor. Any club requires a degree of patience in adjusting to a higher division, but fellow new boys Rotherham, Port Vale and Bradford effortlessly negotiated their way into the top half of the table. Each built on the momentum from the conclusion of last season, a propulsion Gillingham simply didn't have as we staggered to promotion on the back of a series of disjointed performances.
Nevertheless, if Allen's dismissal was purely a consequence of footballing inadequacies, it's a disgusting decision – it should be inconceivable that a manager can guide a club to their first silverware in half a century and then be casually discarded 11 games later. Clearly there was an underlying problem.
Allen's widely acknowledged eccentricities were destined to sit uncomfortably with the chairman's antagonistic and often paranoid leadership. There were rumours of considerable unrest among the squad at the manager's attention-grabbing methods. Popular players have been marginalised by inferior replacements and the decision to transfer list four key members of the squad days after the transfer window closed smacked of the most desperate kind of motivation.
The reaction of Gillingham's support has been one of muted disappointment. The team has only been demolished once the season and did face a testing opening eight games, but several performances have been unimaginative.
I liked Martin Allen, far more than I anticipated upon his appointment. His surreal interviews and programme notes, genuine empathy towards supporters and unwavering positive drive are among the qualities that will be missed. The board's decision may turn out to be the right one, but they are now searching for their eighth manager in eight years and it all feels rather distasteful. Chris Lynham