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October 6, 2010

League Two, 2010-11 season – Attendance map (2009-10 figures).

Note: to see my most recent post on the English 4th division, click on the following: category: Eng-4th Level/League 2.
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League Two, 2010-11 season


Port Vale FC toil under the radar and in obscurity in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The Valiants are the rather surprising leaders of League Two after 10 matches. Port Vale have won 4 of their last 5 matches and sit atop League Two with 22 points, 3 points ahead of Chesterfield. [Chesterfield are riding a club resurgence and a swell-in-attendances following the opening of their new ground, B2net Stadium{photos, here; en.wikipedia.org page, here}.

In September, 2009, Port Vale manager Mickey Adams placed the entire squad on the transfer list, after he judged the team to be basically not trying hard enough {here is an article from the Guardian.co.ik, by Louise Taylor, from 29 September, 2009, 'Micky Adams is playing a dangerous game at Port Vale'}. This move had followed a poor 2008-09 season, when Vale finished 18th, and that had followed relegation in 2007-08. So Adams in one stroke called the entire squad out on their professionalism and lit a fire under them. Port Vale then finished eight places higher and with 20 more points than the season before. So it can be judged that Adams' move worked, seeing as how there actually was little in the way of an injection of talent in the squad throughout last season, because Vale are one of the many clubs these days that is operating on a shoestring budget (even if their gates are higher than many of their fellow fourth division clubs...Port Vale averaged 5,080 per game last season, this in a league where the median average attendance in 09/10 was around 3,600).

I hope Port Vale keep up the good form, and decent crowds continue to show at Vale Park, like the 8,443 who attended the 28th September match versus high-flying nearby rivals from 50 km. to the west, Shrewsbury Town (which Vale won 1-0, with a 74th minute goal by the veteran MF Gary Roberts). Because what Port Vale need, apart from consistency, is for more people from the Six Towns that make up the Potteries to start showing up at Vale Park, a ground that holds 18,947 {Vale Park page at port-vale.co.uk, here}`; FootballGroundsGuide.com page, here} and is frankly too large for a club the size of Port Vale. Port Vale are just like Notts County in that they are also the second biggest club in a mid sized English Midlands city, and just like Notts County, Port Vale had a taste of success around 15-20 years back. But of course Vale only made it to the 2nd Level before their recent, decade-long slide, and are in fact the club which has played the longest number of seasons in the second tier without ever having made it to the top flight...Port Vale have played 41 seasons in the second division, yet have never won promotion to the first division. And also just like Notts County, when Port Vale in the past decided it was time to expand their ground, it was an over-expansion. Both significantly enlarged the capacities of their grounds to keep up with the town rivals (Port Vale's being Stoke City...{see this: 'The Potteries Derby', from en.wikipedia.org}; Notts County's being Nottingham Forest). These big expansions were undertaken in spite of the fact that attendance averages were decidedly far smaller than the planned expansion. Unlike Notts County, this occurred with Port Vale in 1949-1950 (while Notts County over-expanded following their last, single season in the top tier in 1991-92). Vale Park opened in 1950 with a 40,000 capacity (!). 40,000 capacity was, back then, and is, now, a ridiculous size for a mid-table, 3rd division football club, even in 1950 , which was during the Post-War era that saw dramatic attendance increases throughout the country [many clubs had their all-time average attendance high in the Post-War years around 1946-47 to 1949-50 or so, including Stoke City, who drew 31,500 per game in 1947-48]. This specter of a club that over-expanded and then languished is still apparent in Burslem, because Port Vale currently play in a ground with one stand uncompleted – the Lorne Street Stand, which was demolished in 1998, and only partially rebuilt, due to lack of funds. The rub is that the club built the posh bits of the Lorne Street Stand, namely, the Executive and Corporate boxes, but left a gaping blank concrete space below, with steps, but no seats.
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At the time, Port Vale were riding high, coming off a plus-60-year best league finish, at 8th place in 1996-97 in the old Second Division, and a pre-popstar-fame Robbie Williams was probably having the time of his life supporting the Valiants. But Port Vale were drawing only around 8,000-9,000 per game back then (with a modern-day turnstile peak of 9,214 per game in 1994-95), in what turned out to be a last, 6-season spell in the second division. One can’t help but think this partially unfinished, yet still half-empty ground sets the tone for new arrivals to Vale Park, be they players or first-time-spectators. Because what does it say about the viability of a club that has left a gaping empty space in their ground for a dozen years? And that for decades has played to crowds that are less than 50% capacity ?
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Thanks to Tims 92 site [English football stadium photos, League and Non-League]…Saturday, 17th January, 2009, Vale Park, Port Vale 1-1 Shrewsbury Town.
Thanks to The Groundhog.WordPress.com/visit to Port Vale (May 26,2007), here.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, 2010-11 Football League 2
Thanks to www.mikeavery.co.uk , for attendance figures, 2009-10 Attendance all teams high to low.

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