Following on from the first article I wrote about our crowd sizes, I was compelled to do a follow-up after the Leeds game. Now, many would define Leeds as the moment of the season thus far. Some say it’s a victory for Drillo-style (true). Some say that it’s a sign that the Old Wimbledon was reborn, and Kinnear’s New Wimbledon hopefully ended up six feet under (also true). But I think it showed a turning point in the WFC crowd, which I think may have long-term implications to come.
Previously, whilst in forced exile at SP, games against bigger teams have become an exercise in damage limitation. Without fail, we always got over-run, with infiltration into “home” areas an almost pre-requisite. However, this season has seen a metamorphis of sorts, and I think it came to a head one chilly Sunday in November. Firstly, I was surprised to see so few away fans (relatively speaking). True, Leeds filled up 3/4th of the Arthur Waite Stand, plus they were given behind the goal at the Whitehorse. But there was very little away fan representation in the main stand, plus neither the Arthur Waite nor the Whitehorse was full.
In other words, the whole of the away contingent would have filled the Arthur Waite and no overspill. Secondly, and perhaps most tellingly, the main stand was full of Wimbledon fans. So in total of a crowd of 18,000, we must have been equal to (if not more) in numbers than a top rated team with a big following. This is not the first time this has happened this season – already, we have outnumbered Spurz slightly (again, they only had enough there to fill the Arthur Waite, despite what your average cock may tell you), and indeed it’s only the Gloryhunters from Celsi who have really made us feel outnumbered at Palace’s ground
Big deal, you may think. But it is a big deal of sorts. For probably the first time since we left SW19, we are getting the upper hand over teams at “home” attendance wise. Attendances are dropping everywhere, including at WFC, but perversely our support is growing. The thing is, though, this could well have serious implications about future ground issues. The main reason for staying at SP for so long was because we could get 20,000 away fans in. Now that’s not happening, there is no legitimate business reason for us to be there (of course, finding a site is another thing, but as we all know, there is a little county called Surrey below us which must have something). Additionally, it’s proved that if we can build up support at SP, then in our own stadium what could we achieve?
Another interesting thing from the Leeds match was the amount of Norwegians supporting us (and attending our matches). We have in effect become the chosen Premiership team of Norway, for obvious reasons, and subsequently our support is holding up nicely. Couple this with the fact that half the Norwegian contingent live in Wimbledon, and this could well be our lifeline in more ways than one.
What I don’t want to see happen is for SH to use this growth in support as a legit reason to stay at SP – it’s grown despite the location, not because of it. However, as far as SP goes, SH may well not be able to buy it anyway – the CP consortium may have flunked, but now Palace fans are trying to take control of it, and I can’t really see them tolerating us there any longer (remember: SH wants WFC to control its own destiny, I doubt whether he would want 50% ownership of a shithole). So maybe the growth in our support could make a new ground even more of a possibility – one reason why SH hasn’t been too keen on buying a new ground is what’s happened to people like Millwall, Stoke, Bolton etc – all three are, or have been, in severe financial shit because of moving to new grounds, and that is maybe what SH is scared of – the finance of a new stadium will take away the finance of the team (well, in practice it probably wouldn’t make much difference, but such things have to be tackled head on). With increased support, perhaps that may well persuade SH to take the risk of a new ground. We know that WFC will die at SP, maybe SH is starting to come round to it as well? Couple this with the fact that getting to SP is becoming worse and worse (the traffic has now got beyond a joke), and this could well be the catalyst for something bigger and much much better
When Drillo became our new manager, we all felt that the move would push us forwards. We are genuinely moving places now, both on the field and increasingly off it. Our away attendances are improving – some of the “old hands” who didn’t go to away matches these days are now trying to find excuses to go – no doubt because of the reaffirming of the old Wimbledon most people grew up on. As said previously, our overall support is increasing nicely, and who knows, maybe we wouldn’t fear Fulham going up and stealing our potential support? (SH is not worried by this scenario one bit, he reckons we’re too established to worry so much)
Now, let’s do something about no club shop in Wimbledon…..