June 29 marks 25 years to the day since Paul Scally was confirmed as the new chairman of Gillingham Football Club – the second-longest reign of any owner and chairman in English professional football, behind only Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson.
The 64-year-old, who was infamously a Millwall fan before purchasing the club back in 1995, took the Gills out of administration and saved them from almost certain liquidation.
He has overseen the Gills’ most successful period ever, including a second ever league title, five seasons in English football’s second tier, a last-minute play-off final win and an FA Cup quarterfinal.
On the pitch
Gillingham have achieved four promotions, and suffered three relegations, since the London-born businessman took them over. The famous 2012/13 League Two title winning season is arguably the greatest achievement of the Scally-era, but promotion to the old First Division in 2000, the 2009 play-off final success and the 1999/2000 FA Cup run give it a good run for its money.
The 2012/13 league title win, led by manager and fan-favourite Martin Allen, was just the second league title in the club’s history, ending a near 50-year wait from 1964.
Promotion to Division One in 2000 came a year after Wembley heartbreak - the Gills losing the 1999 Division Two play-off final to Manchester City on penalties after leading 2-0 with just minutes remaining - but an extra-time victory over Wigan brought joy to the streets of Gillingham.
The 2002/03 season saw the Blues' highest ever finish – 11th – under club legend and former player Andy Hessenthaler.
And the 2009 League Two play-off final saw a 90th minute Simeon Jackson header send Gillingham up once again.
Off the pitch
Scally took on £1.5million of debt upon his purchase of the club, and went onto build three brand new stands at costs of well over £10million.
The man at the helm has also transformed Priestfield into one of the lead venues in Kent for events such as weddings, award ceremonies and parties.
A lot has been achieved since Scally saved Gillingham Football Club in 1995.
Speaking to the club’s website on Monday, Scally said:
“Had someone told me 25 years ago that I would be chairman of a football club, let alone this fantastic club for this period of time, I think I would have laughed.
“Owning a football club was never really an ambition of mine, despite my passion for the game, but, having taken on this project, I have given it everything I have got, and will continue to do so for as long as I have air in my body."
Scally is still hopeful of more success in the future for the Gills whilst he is still connected to the club, he said:
“I am driven and inspired by the fantastic supporters that have been behind me every step of the way, by the club sponsors that have tirelessly backed my ambitions, by the staff that have worked so hard for the club over the years, by the legends that have graced our turf and given us so much enjoyment, and, mostly, by my seven children.
“There is still much work to be done. I want to see Gillingham continue to grow, to overcome the current worldwide challenges, and flourish in the years ahead.
“I am proud, feel privileged and feel humble to be this club’s chairman, and I look forward to the future, and the next 25 years.”