Still A Problem

Monday, 18 February 2002, 0:00
6 mins read

Home >Story Index> There Still Seems To Be A Problem?

Have the ones who have gone before really destroyed our souls that much that we are running on empty ? Lets have a look at some stats. And draw some conclusions. It may sound a bit negative at first, but the positives are there too.
Dateline : April 2000. Swansea City v Exeter City, Vetch Field. Approximately 10,000 Swans fans watch a promoted side win 3-0 in the Swansea sunshine. Steve Hamer rants to Radio Wales about how good John Hollins is, and promptly offers him a contract that would cripple us for seasons to come. Some say out of spite, as during December many wanted the manager sacked. This was not due to league position, but Hollins had become a part of the machine that the more informed could see were killing Swansea. He refused to buy players, or even scout them properly and banned the players from talking to the fans. And when under pressure looked like he was a candidate for the mad house. Hollins was now on twelve thousand pounds – A month !
Dateline : August 2000. Swansea City v Wigan Athletic, Vetch Field. 8,500 Swans fans cheer the team on for our return to the second division. We draw 0-0. Cusack plays up front after months of false promises that we were buying new players ( I think we called them lies at the time ) And not one person in the crowd would have said that we were doomed to relegation, a point earned against a team that cost some 8 million pounds – A great start to the season, and the attendances, if the promises of Neil Mcclure and Steve Hamer are to be believed were set to rise. Hollins nonsense reigned supreme as he was quoted as ” Being locked away in his office for three weeks negotiating deals with players throughout the summer ” He came out having not signed anyone at all, went on holiday and left Alan Curtis to announce that we had signed Andrew Mumford a week later from Llanelli. A great signing two years later, but at the time eyebrows again were raised. A promoted team, no investment and the board creaming what they could from the success of the season before – By lying about team building and new stadiums. And of course there were many suckers taking it all in.
There is a subconscious here. In amongst all the good news we had as much bad. But thousands turned out to show their support for a promising football team, and Ninth Floor were clever too, they knew they couldn’t afford players, so every time the going got tough they reminded us all of this magnificent stadium ( they had 12 press conferences about this ) And delighted in dividing the fans, initially by banning those who hated them the most, and giving freebies to those easily lied too. A great tactic, that for a while worked. But like all things Ninth Floor – It went wrong.
Attendances dropped by three thousand as the season wore on, but a credible overall stat of some 5,500 for the season seemed to fall in with Steve Hamers prediction that ” We need a break even of 5,500 to stay afloat, if we don’t we are in trouble ” At the end of the season Mike Lewis said ” We needed a break even of 6,500 so we are disappointed “
The clear message was that the club had brought back the supporters they yearned for, but failed to build on that by wanting it all on the cheap. As thousands saw through the lies they gave up hope and we lost three thousand fans to the lies of the time, and indeed to poor results.
Their dissenters grew, and many monitored the club via web sites and fanzines believing these mediums as opposed to The Eveing Post and The Official site. No startling news there.
And this season with Lewis in charge we had absolutely no hope, a man brought in to administer the club shop was now in charge of the club ! A recipe for disaster as stories circled the City of his various weaknesses away from football. He saw himself as a saviour, most saw him as a ” chancer ” He sold his interests to Tony Petty, and the rest is history.
And in my opinion all this does affect attendances. And even with Mel Nurse in charge it says a lot to what has gone on before that only 3,500 can turn out to watch the team after he has pleaded for everyone to get along to The Vetch Field. What Mel has to draw from this is the fact that in 1990 we had a hardcore support of some 2,600 or so, and even in the season we got to the play off’s against WBA some attendances were as low as this. I recall 1,800 for some games with Sharpe in charge.
And Cardiff City were no better off, but they have improved their lot considerably since to an average of 12,000 fans this season. Hardly making them a bigger club than Leeds Utd in Hammams words, but a pleasant rise in fortunes.
Of course what is needed to improve things is simply stability. We need a high profiled board, and they have to be a believable board, one that the fans can trust. That’s the first step, and they need a good Chairman. We now have an average of 3,500 fans for home games since Nurse took over, that can be built on easily. And next week against Scunthorpe and Hull ( a big a game as we are likely to get this season ) we will see a rise in fortunes crowd wise. The incentives need to continue to get people in to the ground, the club shop needs to start to stock goods that are easily affordable and the feel good factor needs promoting. This weeks good news surely should be the fact we are no longer in immediate relegation trouble, it’s difficult but how about retaining some of the players we WANT to keep at Swansea like Roger Freestone ?
Mel Nurse is building on 3,500 fans, and it can easily be 4,500 by the seasons end. And next season ? With the right management, players and profile we can build on this and return to the heights of break even crowds for a decent promotion challenge next season. But it needs more than is being done at the moment. Many fans still question the direction of the board, especially with Mel confirming they have no real direction in the local paper. But it’s early days and they deserve the rest of the season to sort it out. The summer can be used to get a new strip in the shop – Early on ! I know it’s a simple thing, but it must be achieved. It’s only right that Swansea City fans get to purchase the new strip / jersey and the wider public see a mass of support for the side in South Wales. And what about franchise ? Swansea’s support in the very west of Wales is massive, could they buy Swans goods in say – Haverfordwest ? Of course they could.
3,500 fans at this stage with the season we have had behind us is not that bad. It can be two thousand more by next season, and if a success the attendances above are easily achieved. And it can’t be argued with, because it’s fact, and 8,000 plus for every game would mean a return to the real atmosphere’s of the past we have all witnessed. And you know we win more than we lose with thousands more behind us. It’s down to Nurse and Co to seize the positives from the past few weeks and build on them. And make everyone feel a part of it. And if they haven’t got someone to do this, then they should get someone in to work with the likes of Martin Burgess, someone who understands the fans and what is required. Not a PR guru who lies, a new commercial person, a real fan who has seen it all and knows the score. An intelligent individual who will not be ” had over ” and works within the constraints with a fresh view and new ideas.
Lets be dismissive of the 3,500, lets build on it, and treat it as a new fan base. It’s there already, a ready made public, a guaranteed cash flow and hope for the future.
It won’t happen overnight, but this club can achieve easily, and now is the time to do it correctly. Learning from the past, creating new ideas and forwarding the Swansea message. The figures of the recent past are testament to what can be achieved.
And clearly even if you are Mel Nurse you cannot make it change, it needs more than just a name.
But lets not for get the biggest name of all – Swansea City.
Keith Haynes writes with Phil Sumbler on a number of football matters. They are the authors of Roger Freestones biography, Another day at the office and are currently working on Tony Ford’s life story ( Barnsley assistant manager, record league appearances and MBE ) Keith writes for a number of publications including 442 magazine, and of course JACKARMY.NET.
Got a view ? Mail him at – the-voice@the-mags.fsnet.co.uk

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