U's bucking the trend

COLCHESTER United are once again bucking the trend, proving that big crowds and a state-of-the-art stadium does not necessarily bring success.The U's won promotion from League One last season, despite having the lowest average attendance in the division.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United are once again bucking the trend, proving that big crowds and a state-of-the-art stadium does not necessarily bring success.

The U's won promotion from League One last season, despite having the lowest average attendance in the division.

And Geraint Williams' men are defying the odds again this term, to an even more dramatic extent. They are currently enjoying the best season in the club's history - they are currently eighth in the Championship, which equates to 28th spot in the whole Football League pyramid.


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All this has been achieved on an average home gate of 5,247, more than three thousand less than the second “smallest” club - Luton Town are averaging crowds of 8,687.

Furthermore, four of the five best-supported teams are below the U's in the table, which puts the Essex club's achievements into perspective. Sunderland might top the attendance charts, with an average of 28,258 and a highest gate of 36,765, but they are below the U's in the table.

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That also applies to Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich. Only Derby (23,848), from the “big five,” are above the Layer Road minnows. Billy Davies' side are going great guns in second place.

Of course, the bigger clubs have no divine right to finish higher in the division. But they usually do!

That is reflected in the other leagues this season. In fact, the top three in League Two correspond to the three clubs with the biggest average attendances.

League leaders Walsall (third with 5,486), second-placed Swindon (top with 6,876) and third-placed MK Dons (second with 5,591) are blazing the trail in League Two. Of course those three average attendances are all bigger than the U's!

It is also interesting to note that the six “poorest” supported clubs in the Football League are all in the bottom eight of League Two.

Macclesfield are rock bottom in both the league and the attendance charts. Fellow strugglers Barnet, Accrington, Boston, Rochdale and Torquay all follow a similar pattern.

Up a notch to League One and there is no surprise that Nottingham Forest, who are five points clear at the top, are way ahead in the break-down of crowd figures. Their average gate of 19,736 is nearly 7,000 ahead of closest rivals Swansea City, who are pushing for the play-offs.

And Manchester United, who are the best-supported club in the land, are eight points clear in the Premiership.

Perhaps the club that equates best with Colchester, in terms of punching above their weight, is Portsmouth. Only Wigan and Watford have attracted fewer people through the turnstiles in the Premiership this season, and yet Pompey leapt into third spot after beating Everton 2-0 last weekend.

Colchester United defender Lawrie Wilson had a nightmarish start to his loan spell at Welling.

Right-back Wilson, who is yet to make an appearance for the U's, was sent off after just 27 minutes of his Welling debut on Saturday, for a professional foul on Cambridge City striker Lee Roache.

However, Welling went on to win the game 1-0, and so move up to second in the Conference South table.

These are exciting times for Colchester United's youth team, as well as the senior side. Joe Dunne's under-18 outfit are looking forward to a trip to Villa Park tomorrow night, to take on Aston Villa in an FA Youth Cup third round tie.

And they warmed up for this big game by powering to the top of the Youth Alliance League on Saturday, thanks to a 2-1 win over Northampton, coupled with previous leaders Wycombe losing 2-0 against Southend. Jimmy Pirie scored a first-half equaliser before Russell Manton netted the winner on 55 minutes.

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