36/41

Now we know for sure we are heading to Eastlands, the slight headache of actually arranging the day starts to sink in. Unless you are one of those brave (foolhardy) folk who booked train tickets/hotels last week under the assumption we were going through, thus potentially angering the football gods (don’t worry, we’ll be rounding some of you up prior to next Saturday and burning you alive on the Common in an attempt to appease them prior to the final) you might have been one of those a fellow member of the Dons fringe media mentioned in his match report as rushing for their phones to book train tickets – and this was no exaggeration, the ground really did light up like a Christmas tree after Mo put us ahead.

As regular readers will know, I didn’t have to worry too much about transport. Planning ahead, but not wanting to upset those all important football gods too much (who my faith in annoys my wife completely… especially when I pondered my entry under religious status on the recent census…) I decided a visit up to visit my family up in Doncaster was long overdue. My dad, sister, and now deceased gran (who was born and grew up in the town) decamped there seven years ago to be closer to my dad’s side of the family – I have to point out this was no great loss to the Dons as the first two were Fulham season ticket holders, and my grans football watching days ended in the thirties – yet her tales of trips to Belle Vue to watch her hero Dizzy Burton were not just interesting, but hilarious to the point I now wish one of us had thought to write them down…

Following your football club around the country has a habit of getting in the way of keeping in touch with relatives… Normally a trip up north has been a chance to make a weekend of it and Doncaster has been nominated as the Anonymous Dons official launchpad to away games in Yorkshire, the East Midlands and beyond – except it hasn’t really worked out like that this term. Keeping an eye on finances has scuppered the many possibilities I had (splitting the journey to Darlington, for example) due to the huge difference between doing that and just catching one of the subsidised supporter coaches, or because the game was played midweek (Mansfield) or postponed (York).

So it seemed sensible to schedule a visit with the family on playoff final weekend, knowing if anything happened to be going on in Manchester on the Saturday we could just drive over. And when I mentioned ‘we’ there, I mean all of us. The playoff final, for followers of smaller clubs, should be the sort of occasion where those who normally don’t attend games come along to lend support. For younger fans, it might be their first big game. For more casual supporters the occasion could encourage them to come to more home games, maybe pick up a season ticket… Yet as soon as we became aware of the pricing structure, it quickly became apparent there wouldn’t be five or six of us going over… in fact it’s just me and my dad.

Right now the frustration at the FA effectively handing Wembley over to UEFA for the best part of a fortnight is really starting to sink in. Even presuming Eastlands pricing was in place, if it had been at Wembley there is a fair chance this game would have set the sort of attendance record that may never have been beaten – if Luton had brought the sort of numbers we saw from them at the JPT final a couple of years ago, and presuming the Dons could have tapped into our casual support.

The problem is even after its rebuild (perhaps even because if it) Wembley has that sort of iconic appeal that encourages you to forget you are paying £10 or £15 over the odds for the occasion. Eastlands on the other hand, is a football ground where Manchester City play. Ignoring for a second the location of the final (I can excuse the Conference for chosing Manchester considering the league is predominantly northern and it is only for one year) how can they really justify charging those prices for a fifth level playoff final? More galling is the news that the cheapest seats for the League Two final will be ten pounds cheaper…

No wonder Lutons projected sales have dropped from estimates of over thirty thousand to sub-20k. Luton at least have the bonus, beyond average gates double ours, of having an entire counties worth of casual supporters to fill half the stadium. Lets face it, Luton are one of the few clubs whose big game support matches their potential… a couple of promotions and a brownfield site becoming available in the right area at the right price, and a few years down the line they could find themselves in the position Brighton are currently in.

As for us Dons, we have sold just over 5,000 at the time of writing, and we’ll probably be lucky to break 7,000 on the day. Some might point to the vast travelling support other clubs take to such occasions, but how many clubs would have taken more than that to Eastlands? Wrexham, Grimsby, York, probably Cambridge, Newport perhaps… It measures up pretty well to the 6,000 Aldershot fans who travelled to Stoke to watch Terry Brown’s last attempt at breaking into the Football League.

Considering the effort and finances involved in making the trip, during these tough times, we have done well. We might not be travelling in the numbers we expected, but the benefit is we don’t have any day trippers or glory hunters in our midst, with their non-singing ways… let’s make sure our corner of Eastlands is rocking come 3pm on Saturday…

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2 thoughts on “36/41

  1. Ray Lane says:

    Forget about the 40 quid to get in – it would cost about 10 times that amount to get on the coach from this part of the world.
    I will be there in spirit if not in person. Thanks to wdon radio I can follow the game (when they stop eating cake).
    GOOD LUCK TO THE DONS and lets hope they can pull it off. They will do us proud.
    And its that time again to say THANK YOU Anonymous Don for keeping me up to date during the season. What happened to the move to the USA?

  2. maliniok says:

    All the points you have made are relevant in my case and I reckon in many others’. Firstly when I saw the prices I thought “Fuck that” but then WUP subsidised coach made thge trip much easier financially and somehow I will try to forget spending 40 quid for a non-league game (I paid 25 for Europa League at the very same stadium back in October). Secondly, going all the way to Manchester means I have to devote one of my two days I can spend with my 5 month old son and relieve the wife from all the parenting duties. But having such a loving wife (can’t say ‘understanding’ as she completely doesn’t understand my football obsession – she thinks I am mad in fact) means she decided to have another one-on-one day with the little one and I can now go. One reason to get out of this league is to avoid all that hassle again next year! Dons 4 Div 4!

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