Okay, we do not have the attendances that were once guaranteed every week in the Premier League but which club can boast this kind of loyalty? Only Newcastle have probably come close.
Let’s not forget that the last couple of years have seen a large increase in unemployment and in Sheffield people have been hit by the recession just as hard as anywhere else.
People are finding that their hard earned money can be put to greater use elsewhere and football clubs are not in a position to argue with this. Clubs have not lowered prices because of the economic situation, on the contrary, ticket prices have increased at most clubs.
United are lucky. We have a very large, loyal fan base and to regularly see a core following of 20,000 at the Lane is very encouraging particularly when Sheffield boasts two football clubs unlike cities such as Leeds who have a much larger population from which they can attract fans.
In the Premier League in the 2006-2007 season, attendances averaged 30,000 and to be able to still command an average of 21,000 four years on, considering our league position and lack of home goals, is nothing short of outstanding.
This season we have slipped to seventh in the attendances league table but to be above the likes of Hull, Middlesborough and Portsmouth, who have only recently been relegated from the Premier League, proves that United have the backing and the depth of support that is the envy of clubs up and down the country.
Last season we averaged just over 25,000 over the course of a season but that also included lucrative matches against both Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle, for which full houses were always guaranteed. Coupled with a healthy league position there is little wonder attendances were higher last term.
A lot of clubs rely on their finances being boosted by visiting clubs and the draw of local derbies over the course of a season. United, so far, have not had any ‘big’ clubs at the Lane and with the likes of Leeds, Forest and Derby still to visit and local derbies against Barnsley and Doncaster to come, the average attendance shows no sign of dipping.
The upcoming Christmas period is always a time when other priorities take precedence, particularly for supporters, but hopefully these fans will continue to back United as we get back to winning ways and start climbing the table in what is always a very busy period.
United fans should be congratulated for their loyalty and hopefully their backing will be rewarded by the team with success between now and the end of the season.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.