Lots of people talk incorrectly of Manchester City’s support and so for today’s subscriber feature I’ve decided to focus on the growth in City’s average attendance from the club’s first season in the League through to recent years, alongside other crowd related statistics. Hopefully, this will help to answer any questions raised on the loyalty of City’s support (but somehow I doubt it!).
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On this day (June 16) in 1947 the Western Mail carried this match report of Manchester City’s 5-0 victory over Newport County, which was played on June 14. The game was remarkable for a number of reasons:
Prior to the 2019-20 Covid affected season this was the club’s latest finish to a season. 2019-20 ended in August (Champions League) with the League campaign ending on July 26 2020. The 1946-47 season had been affected by snow and frozen pitches, causing many games to be postponed.
City played with only ten men for much of the second half due to an injury to Billy Walsh
The Blues won 5-1 with George Smith scoring all five goals. No player has ever scored more goals for the Blues in a League game (Sergio Aguero of course also scored 5 v Newcastle in October 2015). Denis Law did score 6 goals in a FA Cup tie v Luton but this was abandoned and wiped from the records.
Roy Clarke made his City debut and, as City were promoted, he became the first man to play 3 successive league games in 3 different divisions when he appeared in his next City game. He’d joined from Cardiff (Division 3); made his City debut in Division 2 then played in Division 1. Subscribers can read more about Roy Clarke here:
City had achieved promotion over a month earlier (May 10) when they defeated Burnley 1-0 in front of a Maine Road crowd of 69,463. You can read about that game here:
On this day (May 10) in 1947 a solitary goal from Alec Herd against Burnley was enough to give Manchester City promotion. The attendance for this Second Division game was recorded by the media at the time as 67,672 but official records reviewed almost sixty years later showed that City actually recorded the attendance as 69,463.
Typically, the attendance figures City used to give the media for League games through to the 1960s tended to exclude season tickets. So the Blues’ management would give the figure of tickets or pay on the gate admission for the game but exclude season ticket holders. Back in 1946-47 City had around 1,800 season ticket holders and almost every League attendance back then is understated by that amount.
FA Cup games were the actual attendances as these were always sold game by game.
As this practice of excluding all season ticket holders continued for many, many decades at Maine Road attendance figures for League games are usually understated (they were often understated in the 1970s & 1980s as well but for different reasons and back then Peter Swales, Bernard Halford and the others involved in calculating attendances would deny any discrepancy despite many fans, fanzines and others challenging them often).
For comparison purposes it’s worth looking at the attendances of the Division One champions in 1947 to see how the Blues compared. This attendance against Burnley was almost 17,000 higher than Division One champions Liverpool’s highest crowd that season (52,512 v Wolves in December) and the Merseyside Reds nearest home game to City’s Burnley match was watched by 48,800 and that was Liverpool v Manchester United (May 3). Liverpool did average 45,732 that season, whereas City averaged 39,283 but they were a Second Division club.
The City-Burnley crowd was the Second Division’s record at the time and it was higher than every First Division crowd since the 1937-38 season (The Second Division record is now held by Tottenham v Southampton which had 70,302 in 1949-50).
Film of City v Burnley does exist but it’s in a most unlikely place. It was actually filmed as part of a Mancunian Films drama called Cup Tie Honeymoon. The company was run by a Manchester City fan who made this film, which starred Sandy Powell and Pat Phoenix (under her original name of Pilkington). A football game is crucial to the plot and scenes were filmed at Maine Road and interspersed with real action from the City-Burnley game to add credibility.
Myself and Will McTaggart have shown these scenes in our Boys In Blue film shows which have been staged at the Dancehouse and Cornerhouse in Manchester over the last decade. Maybe I’ll explain more about the film and those talks another day.
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