I always feel a little reserved when penning something about our support. That terrible word ‘plastic’ always comes to mind doesn’t it?
It’s something we’ve addressed internally, but from the outside other teams think that’s what we are. The whole ‘where were you when you were sh*t’ thing is popular with some fans, whilst others think our huge resurgence is all about the FA Cup games again Oldham and Ipswich.
It’s not though, is it? We talk about home support, we look at the numbers and point to those games but the truth is something happened before that. this club was woken up before the headline-grabbing FA Cup run and promotion. Here’s something I wrote about the travelling attendance for our away trip to York City on November 22nd 2016, before we beat Oldham.
“1068. Let that sink in. That is more than seven National League teams average at home, and if you take away following into account it’s probably more than ten or twelve National League teams’ home support. Dagenham get 1500 on average at home, and most of their visiting fans are within a thirty mile radius. 1068 is better than League One teams expect to take away. It is three times as many as Scunthorpe, top of League One, took to Peterborough tonight.”
1068 seemed, at the time, a phenomenal number to take away. Remember, it’s more than a play-off hunting Scunthorpe took to Peterborough on the same night. It seemed that every hardcore Lincoln fan of a certain age was rediscovering their team. A thousand away, the cheek of it.
It’s seemingly the norm now, with more than that going to Crawley, a full seven hour round trip, this weekend. When we go to MK Dons a week on Saturday, the numbers are likely to be higher than that.
Not just higher, but five times as many.
That’s right. As of a few minutes ago sales of tickets for the trip to MK Dons were almost at 4,400, with more promised if we sell out. Our initial allocation has gone. Our secondary allocation, has almost gone as well. We’re on course to take more than 5,000 fans to Stadium MK next weekend, swelling the crowd to a five-figure number.
There’s going to be a whole host of people from outside Milton Keynes and Lincoln who shudder at this fixture. Them, a so-called franchise club. Us, the plastic fantastic who couldn’t get 3,000 a couple of seasons ago. This weekend, two of the most unpopular clubs in League Two will get as many fans at one game as any other two, maybe three fixtures in the division combined.
I’m not going to get into the MK debate, we all have different feelings on them as a club, but I am going to praise our support. Look, it’s easy to take 9,000 to Arsenal, or 5,000 to Everton because you’re attracting a certain type of fan. Little Jonny, no interest in the Imps at all, will be roused by a trip to Goodison Park. Your sales rep mate who supports Liverpool would surely be tempted along to watch his home town side go to Arsenal.
Milton Keynes though, with the greatest of respect, are not the draw here. The opposition is not the draw here. A combination of proximity, importance and allocation has opened up a unique window for us to write our own story.
Fulham in ’82. I know we drew the game, but I hear about that all of the time. Huge numbers travelling down to an important fixture that defined the era. This weekend there’s not quite as much riding on one result, but it’s the same sort of seminal fixture that you’ll hear about in 25 years time. I was at MK Dons the day we took it over.
I don’t do rallying cries very often. I certainly don’t do the fan shaming that seems to mark out so ‘real’ supporters over others. Not everyone can make Carlisle away, or the long trip down to Crawley. Financially, it isn’t always an option. Sometimes, families and girlfriends (and boyfriends for those who are PC and want to find a fault with every word I write) play a part in deciding to make a trip or not.
This one though, this one you’ll remember. These next few matches could see us become a competitive third-tier side for the first time since I’ve been coming as a fan. In 1998/99 we went up, but were we competitive? No.
If we go up next year, would we come back down at first time of asking? I doubt it.
Don’t miss these final few games, not if you can help it. be part of the invasion of Milton Keynes and make a memory you can tell your children, or in my case my dog.