Think we snookered ourselves on Early Bird. The leaked figures showed a significant shortfall. This was due to the seemingly hopeless Whitney being given even longer to show he wasn’t up to it.
The bounce that sales could have got after Keates was appointed didn’t happen because Early Bird was done and dusted and the feelgood factor wouldn’t have been enough for previous Early birders to pay full whack.
Then when you’ve been a season ticket holder it does suddenly dawn on you that paying match by match is an expensive past time.
I get why we didn’t reopen the Early Bird window. In reality it is an accounting mechanism to boost revenue in a financial year that doesn’t align with the football year.
But I do feel that we’re a few hundred down on a scenario that would have played out had the Whitney/Keates switch happened earlier.
To get thousands more would take a promotion and even then we would struggle to get 7,000 home fans.
December 2003. Reading at home. We were within touching distance of Championship play offs. Merson, Samways, Osborn, Emblen, Walker, Corica, Leitao. Christmas bank holiday to boot. Just over 8,000 with around 7,000 home fans.
I honestly believe it was at this moment the wheels came off. Jeff had opened his wallet to assemble a squad who could challenge. And yet we still had thousands of empty seats. The drawbridge went up, Lee lost interest because he had taken us as far as he could and his own overtures around investing had been dismissed. Paul Ritchie prevented from playing. So the senior pros lose motivation. Samways can’t be arsed to commute, Merson into rehab etc etc.
I think Jeff expected full houses most weeks that season and in a way I don’t blame him.
Which is why the only bit of Bescot I’d ever consider expanding would be the away endas it is the only bit that can’t accommodate demand a few times a season. And with all Championship clubs on course to average over 10,000 this season, our dreams of sustaining ourselves there look very very remote.