ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD U's REPORTER SIMON SPURGEON DELIVERS HIS THOUGHTS ON Colchester United IN HIS WEEKLY COLUMN:
Should we be concerned that fewer people watched Colchester United play Oldham than for any other Football League game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium?
While it may not have been a question that has vexed you this week, I must admit I did ask it myself on Tuesday.
The rows and rows of empty seats don’t look good and must be disheartening, particularly to Robbie Cowling’s wallet.
It’s not good, that’s for sure and the attendance of just 2,892 was disappointing, but look at the game on offer.
Two teams struggling for form, with little left to play for in terms of play-off aspirations on a chilly Tuesday evening.
It’s not one to raise the couch potatoes from the comfort of their sofas in a Lazarus-style movement, but you would have expected more than 3,000 to turn up.
In fact it was the lowest U’s attendance for a league game since September 2005.
There are no doubt some who will use the low attendance to call for the manager’s head as if they think a change at the top will magically add an extra 4,000 to the gate.
But I wouldn’t be too quick to read much into low crowds.
Compare the U’s attendances now to those at a similar stage in Phil Parkinson’s time in charge at Layer Road.
The average gate for a league in 2003/4 – Parky’s first full season at the helm – was 3,697, while the average for the current campaign – John Ward’s first as U’s boss – is 4,216.
That’s 14 per cent higher than when Parkinson was crafting his promotion plans and 21 per cent higher than the average for the 2004/5 season and I don’t recall too many calls for Parky’s head.
Bearing in mind that in the 2003/4 season the country was still in the middle of an economic bubble where we all felt far more affluent than in the cash-strapped climate of 2010/11 and I think the current attendances stand up pretty well.
But why are games not attracting more?
While hard-core fans still come along just like they did at Layer Road, it’s fair to say that the floating support hasn’t embraced the new home in the way that the club had hoped.
More than 80,000 people signed a petition to pressure Colchester Council in making the move possible, but few of those are coming through the turnstiles.
I think I’ve seen complaints about everything from stewarding and the price of tickets to the wrong colour urinal cakes being used in the concourse toilets as people moan about the the stadium and the matchday experience.
There’ll always be things to moan about – it’s the way of the modern world.
But I don’t think people, in general, have come, not enjoyed themselves and then not returned.
Quite the contrary in fact, as those I have spoken to, who have come along as first-timers recently, have tended to talk about their experiences in glowing terms.
There was no rush for seats when the stadium first opened that has tailed off as supporters have become disillusioned with what they have seen.
It’s just that there was never an upsurge in support from the Layer Road following that came with the move to the Community Stadium.