The demise of the 'home end'
Recently, Lanterne Rouge discussed the poor position away fans are often given at Championship grounds.
To that, I add: what about the poor position home fans are often given?
If this sounds bizarre, it is prompted by yesterday’s visit to the Ricoh Arena for a turgid 0-0 between Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion.
It was a rare occasion when I was watching from an executive box, and from this somewhat detached location, I was able – when not admiring the Marbella tans and golf club blazers – to observe how much atmosphere the two different sets of fans generated during the afternoon.
Among the home fans, it was largely flat, apart a knot of around 800 who had positioned themselves at the end of one touchline near to the away fans, and who did their best to drum up a bit of noise and get behind the Sky Blues.
But, outnumbered roughly five-to-one by the travelling Baggies, they were mostly drowned out. Albion’s players must have wondered at times if it was an away fixture.
This isn’t to patronise Coventry. But unfortunately for them, the design of their new ground does not include any obvious position for the younger, more vocal, and dare I say it – working-class – supporters to congregate.
And they’re not alone. While the absence of a noisy ‘home end’ seems chiefly a feature of new stadia, it is also evident at the home of yesterday’s visitors West Bromwich Albion, who did not move ground, but have carried out extensive redevelopment work at the Hawthorns. Fans who want to sing now gravitate towards the Smethwick End, and sit by the away fans, rather than in the traditional Birmingham Road End.
In an admirable attempt to reverse this, a group of fans formed ‘The Bomber Squad’, named after Albion’s all-time leading goal scorer Tony Brown, to try and create a singing area at the back of the ‘Brummie’. But their efforts have so far been in vain.
Is this an inevitable consequence of the move to all-seater, and the growth of family and middle class supporters? Probably, and many chairman may be delighted by that.
But it seems a shame that, when new grounds were built or old grounds redeveloped, there was rarely much thought given to re-creating the traditional ‘home end’, a position where fans of a certain age and mindset could gather, and generate the sort of noisy hubbub that was for so many years a great feature of our game.