Harris: Business as usual at Gillingham but ‘the abuse must stop’

It’s been a monumental week for Gillingham Football Club – but business as usual for the manager.

Neil Harris has a new boss to report to after chairman and owner Paul Scally announced on Sunday, after 27 years, he was no longer going to be overseeing the running of the club.

Mr Scally has decided to take a backseat, worn down by the constant abuse he has been receiving from a section of supporters which he says has left him “physically and mentally exhausted”.

Medway businessman and lifelong Gills fan Paul Fisher is now in charge after being appointed co-chairman and chief executive. Harris has continued his own work unaffected while there has been a change at the top.

“Nothing changes for me,” said Harris. “The budget is the budget, I have been managing that. We are still a couple of players light and we are working extremely hard on that and a lot closer to one we want to get done. Nothing changes football club-wise.”

The manager praised his boss – Mr Scally hasn’t quit entirely – and spoke out about the abuse that is rife in the game. It has driven Gillingham’s long-standing chairman into making the decision to stand aside.

Harris said: “Paul Scally was there for the football club and he was there for me. We welcome Paul Fisher into co-chairmanship and CEO status.

“He is someone I have met various times and know. He is a brilliant character, a fresh face for us as a group and I look forward to working with him.

“Paul Scally has stepped away in the interim period because he needs to recharge. I understand his statement and what he was saying, it has been a difficult period for him.

“He has been the backbone of this football club for 27 years, he has put a lot of money into this club, he has had some tough days with it and sometimes when you sit at the top you are there to be shot at. He has had a lot of abuse.

Neil Harris and Paul Scally watch on at Portsmouth last season. The Gills manager says personal abuse is wrong after Scally’s long battle against abusers. Picture: KPI

“Right or wrong, it is not for me to judge. When it gets personal, it is wrong. When it gets personal like it was at times towards me as a manager [at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night] it is wrong, it should not be allowed in society, let alone football. But what I do know is Paul is a bloody good man and he will always be there for the football club.

“I have been around him a long time, I know where he has been at, he has got a beautiful family that he wants to spend time with. There are things he wants to do away from the football club and we all support that as staff.

“It is not just abuse aimed at Paul but in general, in the footballing world. Unfortunately social media platforms give everyone the opportunity to abuse people in the limelight, including myself, and it is wrong.”

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