For the last ten years, City fans have been berated by almost every opposition we have played. Oil money, buying trophies and no history have been some of the favourites, but the one that is probably the funniest is the “where were you when you were s**t?” chant. To me, that’s the best of them all.
Last season, at Huddersfield away, the home supporters sang this particular song to our travelling contingent. Where were we? Most of us were stood on the Kippax in Division Two, watching our boys put ten past your lot!
This weekend, Brighton visited and the attendance was close to capacity. Twenty years ago, we played at Millwall in front of just 12,726. Four days later, after that 1-1 draw and also a 2-2 draw at Northampton, City hosted Burnley, and you’d have been forgiven for thinking the attendance would have been very low. 30,722 turned up for that game, and going into the match, City were 7th. Bear in mind this was in the third tier of English football.
By comparison, Huddersfield’s two matches over the same period saw the Terriers draw 1-1 at Stockport in Division One (second tier) in front of a huge 8,023 supporters. A week later they hosted Oxford United and drew in a crowd of 10,968. Going into that match, Huddersfield were second in the league!
Now I might be picking on Huddersfield a little, so let’s look at a ‘big team.’
Old Trafford during the 80’s had a capacity of around 60,000, dropping from its original 80,000. This drop in capacity just happened to coincide with a drop in attendance. At the time United, apart from a couple of FA Cups, were winning nothing and the average attendance went from over 50,000 to 38,000. In fact, I recall a commentator saying “the Stretford End used to be a seas of faces – now you can see what shoes they are wearing,” referring to the low attendances. And it was true; the team were not successful and the fans stayed away.
In 1989, Martin Edwards gave Alex Ferguson an £8m warchest and the Scot then bought some of the best players around to try and win the league. It was a project that worked, and suddenly, the stands started to fill again, except for the 1992/93 season, where the average attendance was just under 34,000. They won the Premier League that year! How odd that the following season, their average attendance jumped by 10,000. By the 1996/97 season, it had jumped again to just under 55,000 and just a few seasons later, they broke the 60,000 mark. In 2006/07, with the team winning everything in sight, the average attendance had doubled from that of the unsuccessful mid 1980’s team.
Where were their fans when they were s***?
But blues fans need not worry about empty seats; I for one and past caring, although other fans and many pundits seem to be obsessed by it. I’ve noticed a growing trend to mention empty seats each time we play at home, from media both on TV, online and in newspapers, for some reason, empty seats just have to be mentioned. It’s almost like they have absolutely nothing else to go on about, and in fairness to them, they don’t.
The team is performing well on the pitch and are in the headlines for the right reasons. Financially, the club is performing brilliantly, and are now posting profits, so that’s another thing that they can’t have a go at is for. Of course, the Champions League is a target for the media and opposing fans alike, and I will address that in another article (those who know me will be fully aware of my dislike for that ‘competition’), so basically, empty seats is all they have left.
But the fact is, like most clubs, City have always had a solid, core fan base, and despite their success over the last ten years, we seem to have avoided attracting the glory hunters. I’m happy that there are empty seats at our home games and can live with it, as it means that our stands have more genuine supporters filling them.
I’d much rather have a half empty stadium of genuine fans, than one full of day trippers and glory hunters.