Thirty or so months ago most Lincoln City fans could turn up to Sincil Bank just ten minutes before kick off and, for the majority of games, you’d have been able to pretty much pick any seat you wanted. Crowds of sub-2000 home fans were common place, with even some just numbering over 1,000 for a league match. Clive Nates, Danny and Nicky Cowley, a few cup runs and a promotion later, if you leave getting a ticket until ten minutes before kick off then chances are you’re going to be on the bottom row of the Stacey West stand. It’s a truly miraculous turn-around. I’m not here to talk about that turn-around as far better writers have dissected every positive of the last few years (for those that haven’t read “The Stacey West” blog, go and do it), but instead the term “plastics”.
I write this a few days after the Imps went out of the League Cup at Blackburn Rovers and browsing the various message boards and Facebook groups, I came across a comment on “Vital Lincoln City” on a thread called “Plastics”…..
“I sat in Ewood park last night in front of 3900 of their supporters in a Stadium that holds 33,000. Now that helped our bank balance didn’t it. To me Support is support whether they are playing little old Lincoln or Aston Villa. A truly poor effort.” – geejay
Maybe it’s because I lived in Blackburn for the year that covered the 2013/14 season, but that particular comment annoyed me somewhat, especially, the latter half of the sentence where the user (who I don’t know and have nothing against him/her personally) basically says that regardless of the opposition, you should attend any match that your team plays, especially at home. That is an attitude that some people around Sincil Bank share and an air of “I’m better than you” is certainly present amongst a handful. The particular aim has been at those that don’t attend games regularly, but rather annoyingly said by some who refused to go to City games during the pre-Cowley days in the non-league (I’m not saying that that is the case for the above user before anyone says it)..
The league will always take priority for fans, especially season ticket holders. Cup games are nice, but the simple fact is that very few clubs consistently boast similar attendances for cup games than they do in the league…..not even Lincoln before the sudden surge a few years back. For context, below are all of the cup games we played at home in the Conference years pre-Cowleys. Any in bold are where the attendance was higher than the previous league game, and for further insight the home attendance of the game before and after are both in brackets;
29/10/2011 – Lincoln City 1 Alfreton Town 2 – Attendance 1,728 (2,944/2,090)
14/01/2012 – Lincoln City 0 Carshalton Athletic 0 – Attendance 1,743 (3,048/1,615)
20/10/2012 – Lincoln City 0 Halifax Town 0 – Attendance 1,940 (2,325/1,873)
03/11/2012 – Lincoln City 1 Walsall 1 – Attendance 2,032 (3,809/1,873)
01/12/2012 – Lincoln City 3 Mansfield Town 3 – Attendance 4,127 (2,243/2,562)
29/10/2013 – Lincoln City 3 Worcester City 0 – Attendance 1,344 (2,748/1,874)
09/11/2013 – Lincoln City 0 Plymouth Argyle 0 – Attendance 2,924 (2,748/1,874)
30/11/2013 – Lincoln City 5 Stalybridge Celtic 1 – Attendance 1,023 (1,874/1,411)
11/01/2014 – Lincoln City 0 North Ferriby United 4 – Attendance 2,037 (1,877/2,017)
28/10/2014 – Lincoln City 5 Alfreton Town 1 – Attendance 1,529 (2,360/1,953)
13/12/2014 – Lincoln City 0 Alfreton Town 2 – Attendance 1,243 (1,421/2,685)
27/10/2015 – Lincoln City 2 Tranmere Rovers 0 – Attendance 2,380 (2,565/2,550)
So out of the 12 home games played in cup competitions between the commencement of the 2011/12 season and the end of 2015/16, only three saw an increase on fans from the previous game, and yes, we had a length run without a home league game in late 2013. Out of the three, two were derbies (yes, as much as we don’t want to admit it, North Ferriby is geographically a derby game) and the other were Plymouth Arygle who brought well over 1,000 fans that day. The point being that we can’t criticise one club for a lower attendance in a cup competition when we were certainly guilty of it ourselves just a few years ago, especially when you consider some of the attendances in the cups were almost half of the league game before. Just because someone doesn’t attend a particular game, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re less of a fan than you are.
What is disappointing about this is that some people will think that because they attended the above games, or any cup games these days, that they’re automatically a better fan than someone else who decided not to attend games. Invariably in my experience those spouting that are amongst the younger members of the crowd, i/e the late teens/early twenties region) and in some ways I do understand their arrogance/viewpoint because they’re too young to appreciate how much life changes once you’re fully into adulthood and priorities change.
Your mid-twenties are where people start having children or starting focusing on their careers. Maybe they’ll move to a different country and therefore going to games isn’t practical. I used to go to every single game, attending each home and away fixture for just over eight years, a run I calculated at the time was comfortably more than 400 games, but at the end of 2012/13 my personal circumstances changed and I ended up starting a new job in Blackburn. That came in August 2013 and in the five years since I have lived away from Lincoln, specifically living in Blackburn, Wigan, Leeds, London, Salisbury and now High Wycombe. At that point getting to Lincoln on match days was, for lack of better words, a pain in the arse, and more importantly, costly. I missed my first game since August 2005 in October 2013, a 0-0 draw with Tamworth, and since then I have not been a regular at Lincoln games. There have been times that I really wanted to go to a game but couldn’t afford it for various reasons, including financially, as spending £50 just to get to a home game is a struggle on a regular basis.
As you get older your priorities will change. I stopped attending regularly when I was 29 because of my career (I couldn’t turn down a role working at BT Sport on almost double what I was getting paid at Vodafone) and I made the active choice to go to a role that would require weekend work. I’ve since moved on from BT Sport, but I am quite fortunate at the moment to say that I am actually doing what I want to do for a job and it would take a lot for me to give it up, but it requires working Saturdays and Sundays on a rota basis. I imagine it is the same for a lot of other fans and that’s what makes comments recently so frustrating, you never know what commitments anyone else has outside of work. During my time in Blackburn I started working for the ice hockey team (Go Hawks!), and they play on Saturday and Sundays, usually in the evenings, but with the nearest games to Lincoln being in Sheffield and starting at all sorts of random times, the chances of me going to both were none. I’d committed to doing my work for the hockey team and so I stuck to that. Some of the fans who didn’t attend the game on Tuesday night could have made a commitment that meant a game of football might not have been a priority..
Pre-Cowley days saw plenty of empty seats at Sincil Bank in the non-league
I think this is where the issue with supposed “plastic” fans comes from, people that are fortunate enough to be able to go to most/every games don’t appreciate what it is like to not be in that position. Those that are in a position to go every single week, make the absolute most of it whilst you can because you never know when that will end. I hope that those fans that are accusing others of being “plastic” will stop and think before doing that in future.
In amongst all of the above ramblings I hope I put across that regardless of whether you attendance all games during the season, or even none, take into account that everyone has different circumstances that dictate what they can do/where they can go. What impacts one person will not impact another, and ultimately we do all support the same club. Whether you’ve been a fan for 50 years, through the two spells in the Conference and the ups of the Taylor era, right through to those who have only started attending during the last year or two, we’re all fans and should treat each other with respect in that sense. Yes, their way of enjoying football might be different than your’s, but as long as they’re not hurting anyone, does it really matter? You enjoy football your way, let others enjoy it their way.
All of the above does not apply to those who willingly dismissed the club during the Conference years and consistently goaded fans for still going, but are now “the heartbeat” of the club and “through and through”, you’re just twats.
For the record, the last match I attended was the home game against Colchester at the end of last season, and my next will be the game at Macclesfield on September 15th.