North Stander: We’ve been here before with low crowds – even in the George Burley era!

These fans were keeping warm at Portman Road on Saturday.

These fans were keeping warm at Portman Road on Saturday. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Let’s try to put this debate about the size of the crowd into some kind of perspective, shall we?

Yes, the attendance on Saturday was the lowest league gate at Portman Road for 19 years.

Yes, it is disappointing that the stay-away brigade haven’t yet been tempted back by the much more entertaining football.

But there are reasons for it.

Last season was the dullest in living memory.

The club then decided to increase the price of most season tickets. The manager said things which alienated more supporters.

On top of that, we’re close to Christmas when there are other demands on people’s time and bank balances.

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Oh, and finally, the weather is just a little parky! So, no great surprise there were lots of empty blue seats.

Shame, because it was another decent home performance.

Before the wailing and gnashing of teeth gets too out of hand, it’s also important to remember that we have been here before.

You don’t need to trawl too far back to find crowds significantly lower than the current turn-out.

We all remember the George Burley era with great affection, don’t we?

Those rip-roaring seasons when we scored goals for fun and made the play-offs every year. Great fun, weren’t they?

Well, yes they were.

But not many people turned up to watch.

In 1996-97 and 1997-98 - both very successful, exciting seasons when we reached the play-offs - average league crowds were only around the 12,000 mark.

Several times, attendances dropped below the 10,000 mark.

I remember after one particularly pitiful midweek crowd, in the depths of winter, we published a front page picture with the headline ‘Spot the crowd.’ Harsh, but true.

So, Ipswich Town does not have some kind of divine right to crowds around the 20,000 mark.

If we mount a credible challenge for the top six this season, you can be confident more people will turn up as the excitement mounts.

It’s not rocket science. Serve up entertaining, winning football for a sustained period, and the stay-away thousands will start to come back. But it won’t happen overnight.

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