Ground record attendances

trippa

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There are many things I have struggled to get used to since covid appeared. One of them is that I still find myself looking for the attendances when reading the football results in the paper. It's a reflex action and as I still expect the announcer on University Challenge to say ' asking the questions Bamber Gascoigne' I don't suppose it's anything my brain will be able to adapt to anytime soon.

Ever since I was one of the 2818 who saw Chester win 3-2 at Sincil Bank in October 1966 I've been just as interested in how many were watching as in how many goals they saw and who scored them. Maybe it's because I was amazed that so many people (more than the population of the village I was living in at the time) would want to spend Saturday afternoon watching a team that was destined to finish bottom of the Fourth Division that season. Some kids in the crowd sang of the skills of Joe Bonson and Harry Godbold but I was not convinced. Within a year I had declared I was a Rotherham fan and, as far as I can remember, the surge in gates at Millmoor after Tommy Docherty became manager was part of the reason for this stroke of luck.

I know I'm not alone in this fascination with attendances. Earlier this season when we were allowed into non-league games I went to quite a few, particularly at those grounds in Lincolnshire which I'd not been to before. Most clubs seemed to have increased gates boosted by groundhoppers deprived of watching their EFL and Premier League teams. On the day I went to watch Sleaford Town v Cogenhoe United the unseasonably cold and blustery weather had deterred all but the most hardy, and me. Not a day to be stood on the edge of the fens. Nowadays I keep a handwritten record of the matches I attend which includes the players, subs, managers and of course the attendance, (I'm now retired and this is the sort of thing I've got time for). Sleaford don't seem to usually give an official attendance figure so I walked around the ground and made it 45. Online a day or two later I read a groundhopper's report which said he'd done a count and there were 48, which is the figure I then put in my records. So at this one match there was at least four per cent of those there who were counting the others.

In January 1975 the Millers played Stafford Rangers at Marston Road in the Third Round of the FA Cup. I've seen at least four different attendance figures for this match, varying between 7500 and 8536. Whichever figure you choose it was the first of a number of ground records I've been part of while watching Rotherham. I'm fairly sure it wasn't an all ticket game and I remember being able to walk around the ground looking for a good spot, so maybe they could have squeezed a few more in if needed. Those were the days of huge crowds for FA Cup matches. After drawing 0-0 at Stafford we lost the replay 2-0 at home in front of 11262. The highest league gate at Millmoor in 74/75 prior to that was fewer than 7000. Stafford moved their Fourth Round tie to the Victoria Ground, Stoke and lost 2-1 to Peterborough with 31160 watching.

By the time Rotherham were drawn away to Frickley Athletic in the Third Round in January 1986 attendances had dipped dramatically. The total figure for league matches that season was 16,488,577. It had been nine million more just eleven years earlier and gates for cup games had been similarly hit. We had played Frickley Colliery, as they were then, in the First Round in 71/72 and were lucky to get a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw before 5824. Frickley play at Westfield Lane, South Elmsall in what was still, just, the Yorkshire coalfield. The miners strike had finished less than a year earlier and there was still a lot of resentment towards the police who were there in numbers. It had been reported that Halesowen fans had made the mistake of singing unflattering ditties about Arthur Scargill in an earlier round, provoking a vigorous response from the home fans. There would be no trouble on that score with the like-minded Rotherham fans, but the match took place in a tense atmosphere which continued after the game as the three opposing factions clashed in the streets as the coal fires blazed indoors.

The game took place on a tricky, partly frozen, pitch but Rotherham showed the determination needed for a 3-1 win against a team who would go on to finish second in the Gola League that season, losing only one home league game. This was an all-ticket match and the attendance of 5923 remains a ground record. We drew Arsenal at Highbury in the next round and lost 5-1 (28490) but certainly saw some goals in the cup that year having beaten Wolves 6-0 and Burnley 4-1 before going to Frickley.

I've been to Westfield Lane a few times since and there have been few changes. The slag heap overlooking the ground has been landscaped and appears popular with walkers but I always look around and try to imagine how 6000 raucous fans managed to fit in there one cold Saturday afternoon in the eighties.

Scunthorpe United moved from the Old Show Ground to Glanford Park in the summer of 1988 and you would have thought they would come to regret it. The Old Show Ground was characterful and close to the town centre but was in need of urgent expensive improvements. The new stadium was built just outside the Scunthorpe boundary with a keen eye on costs. It has been decried in many forums since for redefining bland but the Scunthorpe public recognised the realities and gates rose by 40% in that first season, when they were challenging for promotion as they had done in the last season on the Donny Road.

Rotherham played at Glanford Park in a Fourth Division game on May 1st 1989. A friend mine, John, was a Liverpool fan who had been at Hillsborough just 16 days before. I spoke to him a day or two after he got back and he was understandably thinking of giving up on football. When we spoke again a few days later I suggested he should come and watch me play in a midweek Sunday League game and he did. After watching Rotherham beat Hereford 6-0 on April 29th John was starting to think he may still be able to get some pleasure from watching the game, but when I saw him as the crowd built up on the away terrace at Glanford Park I got a glimpse of the trauma he was feeling.

The match had been made all ticket and for the first three years the ground was open the away end was standing only. Tickets in there were £3 and Rotherham sold out their allocation. We were second in the table, four points ahead of Scunny who were fourth. I remember it as a match with little goalmouth action in which Rotherham took very few risks and we left the ground happy with a 0-0. Four points from the last two games clinched the Fourth Division Championship for Billy McEwan's heroes. I don't often bet on football, I lose enough on the horses, but I did have a pony on at 8/1 earlier in the season, once I'd seen how good Bobby Williamson was, so I'm sure I must have bought the drinks on the way home after the league was won.

The attendance was 8775 on May Day 1989 against a capacity of 10800. This stood as aground record until 8906 saw a League One match against Forest in 2007. That figure has since been overtaken by 9077 for a League Cup tie against Manchester United in 2010. The limit at Glanford Park is currently 9088.

I hope some of you find my first contribution of interest. Please add your own memories of ground record attendances to this thread. I'm preparing another two instalments to be posted in the next week or two.
 

trippa

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Image (17).jpg
 

Ricardo

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I’ve always wondered how Aldershot’s record crowd was over 19,000 and Sutton Utd’s was 14,000, must have been pretty packed in bordering on dangerous
 

Belushi

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I’ve always wondered how Aldershot’s record crowd was over 19,000 and Sutton Utd’s was 14,000, must have been pretty packed in bordering on dangerous
Amazed, too, that the record attendance for Nuneaton Borough at Manor Park was 22,114, on 28 January 1967 v Rotherham United in the F.A. Cup Third Round.

I'd attended the Second Round match on 7 January 1967 against Swansea Town when 18,000 attended (the previous record attendance), standing on a frozen muddy slope (you couldn't call it a terrace), at the Cock and Bear End.

I was also at Highfield Road for the record attendance (51,455) when Coventry City beat Wolves 3-1 on April 29 1967.
 

Stoodley Pike

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One of the odder, surely most dangerous former Football League grounds must be Norwich City's The Nest, which obliged spectators to occupy all manner of precarious perches.

On one of my visits to Norwich, I sought out the location (there's a commemorative plaque on an adjacent house's outer wall), which then was still recognisably the disused chalk pit, Ryump's Hole, from which Canaries created The Nest. I think houses have since been built there.

The Nest's record attendance, 25,037, was established during the 1934-35 season, at an FA Cup fifth round tie against Sheffield Wednesday. One can scarcely imagine how so many fitted into such a constrained site.

The FA essentially forced Norwich to move - to Carrow Road - shortly after the Wednesday game because of growing concern about safety at The Nest. The final straw, apparently, was old chalk workings giving way, leaving a 30ft hole in a corner of the pitch.

http://readtheleague.com/the-big-feature/thenest

Closer to heart and home, I've often wondered how 36,885 managed to cram into The Shay, for a 1953 FA Cup fifth round tie between Halifax Town and Tottenham Hotspur. The biggest crowd I've experienced at The Shay is 12,599, in 1980 - and it was pretty crammed that afternoon.
 

Belushi

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As I wrote earlier, Nuneaton's record attendance was 22,114 set back in 1967.

On 7 January 2006 they played Middlesbrough in the Third Round of the FA Cup. The crowd was limited to 6,000. If anything the ground had been improved in the intervening years, with all terracing now concrete and no reduction in the size of the stadium. It still just had one small seated area.
 

Bigaitch

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Enjoyable original post and I am always fascinated by attendance figures albeit not to your level.
My father and I were present when the attendance at Portman Road, Ipswich was set on the last three occasions. At 38,010 it won’t be beaten unless Town increase the capacity significantly, and dare I say improve in equal measures.
I have also been present at other ground attendance records, MK Dons (Cameroon v Brazil), Bishop Stortford (FA Cup v Middlebrough) amongst many others that are current or superseded.
At the other end of the scale I was one of 4 present when Beckton United played St Andrews in the London Spartan League in the 90s. Although nobody took a gate I guess the official attendance was 0, but saying I made up 25% of the crowd sounds better....
 

trippa

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Cheers Bigaitch. I could have mentioned I was also at Selhurst Park on consecutive Tuesday nights when Rotherham played Wimbledon in Division One (now Championship) and the League Cup. Wimbledon's games were being boycotted at the time prior to the move to MK. I did have some reservations about attending in the circumstances but 2002/03 was one of the few seasons that I was able to get to every game. The gates were given as 849 and 664 and appeared to be grossly exaggerated. Maybe they included the photographers who had come to take pictures of the empty stands.
 

Ricardo

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Cheers Bigaitch. I could have mentioned I was also at Selhurst Park on consecutive Tuesday nights when Rotherham played Wimbledon in Division One (now Championship) and the League Cup. Wimbledon's games were being boycotted at the time prior to the move to MK. I did have some reservations about attending in the circumstances but 2002/03 was one of the few seasons that I was able to get to every game. The gates were given as 849 and 664 and appeared to be grossly exaggerated. Maybe they included the photographers who had come to take pictures of the empty stands.
they weren’t just boycotting the Wimbledon games, all the fans had gone to support AFC Wimbledon except for a handful of random nutters
 

mxhornet

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One of the odder, surely most dangerous former Football League grounds must be Norwich City's The Nest, which obliged spectators to occupy all manner of precarious perches.

On one of my visits to Norwich, I sought out the location (there's a commemorative plaque on an adjacent house's outer wall), which then was still recognisably the disused chalk pit, Ryump's Hole, from which Canaries created The Nest. I think houses have since been built there.

The Nest's record attendance, 25,037, was established during the 1934-35 season, at an FA Cup fifth round tie against Sheffield Wednesday. One can scarcely imagine how so many fitted into such a constrained site.

The FA essentially forced Norwich to move - to Carrow Road - shortly after the Wednesday game because of growing concern about safety at The Nest. The final straw, apparently, was old chalk workings giving way, leaving a 30ft hole in a corner of the pitch.

http://readtheleague.com/the-big-feature/thenest

Closer to heart and home, I've often wondered how 36,885 managed to cram into The Shay, for a 1953 FA Cup fifth round tie between Halifax Town and Tottenham Hotspur. The biggest crowd I've experienced at The Shay is 12,599, in 1980 - and it was pretty crammed that afternoon.
Yes there are houses built on the site of The Nest in Norwich, though it was a factory site in between times, the two roads of housing are called The Nest (naturally) and Bertram Way. At the back end of Bertram Way there is still some remaining terracing just about visible.
 

Shotover

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From memory the night Manchester United came to Aldershot supporters were allowed to sit on the pitch surround and it was a very tight fit. I have a photograph, which I will try and share which shows a wooden stand being built at the High Street end for the cup match against Reading in January 1935.
 

London Harrier

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Great thread.

I’m also fascinated by attendance figures. Particularly for clubs with small modern day crowds that have achieved large figures in the past.

The ground record at the Maurice Rebak Stadium, then home of Finchley FC, is reported as 9,555 for an FA Amateur Cup QF tie against Bishop Auckland in 1950. Given the relatively small footprint of the ground, it’s a mind boggling amount. The current capacity is listed as 1500 on Wikipedia. Even if this was increased to 2000, it’s hard to picture how 5 times this number could have squeezed in. I can only assume that the boundaries weren’t as tight 70 years ago.

Another one of note is Bootham Crescent, which apparently opened with a capacity of 30,000 and had a record attendance of 28,123 in March 1938, for an FA Cup match against Huddersfield Town. The modern capacity was around 8,000.
 

Wheelbarrow

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There seemed to be a lot of York supporters in the crowd, or where they just Forest fans.
I can't vouch for it first hand (do I look that old 😆) but given the context - last 8 of the cup for a third division team, beating Div 1 Spurs in the previous round - I would imagine there would indeed have been a big travelling support.
 

Kingsmere

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Oxford United's Manor Ground record was against Preston in 1963/64 there are highlights of the game on YouTube. Heath Robinson, Sardines and Health & Safety spring to mind.

I was in the ground for some of the other top ten attendances and to say it was snug is an under statement.
 

Bigaitch

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Oxford United's Manor Ground record was against Preston in 1963/64 there are highlights of the game on YouTube. Heath Robinson, Sardines and Health & Safety spring to mind.

I was in the ground for some of the other top ten attendances and to say it was snug is an under statement.
To be fair, The Manor Ground was snug when it was empty....😉
 

New Forest

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I was amongst the ten thousand locked out of White Hart Lane for the FA Cup replay in 1960/1 against Sunderland when there were seventy thousand inside. I also remember a game against Blackburn Rovers, I believe. Over sixth four thousand that day. I was behind the goal but right at the back Every time there was a corner the crowd surged forward and then back up again. Every time those at the back got knocked into the walkway. Amazingly each time the crowd settled back and you could stand at the back again. We are better off with all-seater, and I don't care what some people will say.
 

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