It's a common refrain that you hear around football grounds during a match, especially if the away team is winning. And I know. I've done it myself at various points, including at Highbury. Here we go, after me. 1-2-3.....
"Shit club, Shit fans. Shit club, Shit fans."
You could hear it quite a lot at the Macron last season, if you bothered to turn up. And, at that point, the first two words correct. We were a shit club. And there are some who would say, until we are fully out of the woods, that we still are.
So, it begs the question, as we continued our inexorably downward slide, do Bolton really have shit fans? It could be argued that those who turned up week in, week out, to watch what passed for football last season were not. Those that had left the club to its own devices were, it could be said, the shit fans. But then, if you really, truly, deeply care for your club, could you bear to watch what passed for Bolton Wanderers? I know some who couldn't.
Therefore, I thought I'd have a look and see just where Bolton Wanderers fans stood alongside our fellow League One apologists when it came to what makes great and not so great supporters. I have used a fairly bog standard algorithm called "making it up as I go along" to place us on a league table of fans.
First of all, if you asked me who deserved to be awarded the best fans of League One, I'd immediately go for the two thousand odd who regularly turn up at Spotland, or the Crown Oil Arena (Arena??!!) as it's now known. I mean, have you been to Rochdale? And as for the worst I'd go for those who turn up to watch what is essentially a team of Bolton case offs at Bury. But that wouldn't be fair. No, actually, it would be fair. But it wouldn't be accurate.
So, first of all, lets have a look at average attendance based as a percentage of total capacity. Top of the pile are AFC Wimbledon, who have a 94.35% average. No great surprise there and I don't think there are many who wouldn't begrudge them that kind of figure. They do have a tiny ground (the smallest in the division) and as a supporter led club it shouldn't be surprising that they are there. It's also interesting to note that MK Dons are in the bottom four in this table.
Second are Bristol Rovers, third are Northampton, both with comparatively small stadiums, and fourth are Bradford, but that is due to the club virtually paying the fans to attend. At the bottom are Port Vale, who have a disproportionately large stadium compared to their history, then Oldham and then Coventry, who have their own off field problems. Sad that that is, it's not our fault.
Overall, Bolton find ourselves eleventh, just behind Sheffield United and just ahead of Scunthorpe the team who are currently leading the division at a canter. So I'd suggest that Scunthorpe should be way at the top of the list when it comes to shit fans. I know it's Scunthorpe (and as the old joke goes, who put the **** in Scunthorpe?) but if Shrewsbury can fill more of their ground than the league leaders, what does that say about the fan base?
At the moment, we stand at an average of 51.06% of the ground being full over the season. Obviously this wouldn't the case if you included the Football League Trophy, but as no one else has bothered about that competition, why should I? The club are very big on promoting the fact that the fan base hasn't really slipped over time, although we are down about six thousand from the last season in the Premier League, but our average figure of 14,667 is consistent with the past two seasons. And our tickets are some of the most expensive in the division.
If you look at the clubs with the largest capacity in League One, those over 20,000, then we are third behind Sheff United and Bradford. However, both Sheffield and Bradford are cities, with over half a million inhabitants each, whereas Bolton, despite its best efforts in 2011, remains a town on the edge of a large city. And here is when the argument about our location comes into play.
Fair enough, Sheffield has two teams, and for the sake of completeness Wednesday are currently averaging 67% for the season. But even if you split Sheffield in two, it would still be twice the size of Bolton. The same for Bradford if you allied them with Leeds, which is unfair I know, but I am trying to make a point. And I really don't care.
You then look at where we are situated, in the veritable football hotbed. Three of the world's major clubs within spitting distance, never mind our six fingered friends just over the border in Wigan, as well as Blackburn, Bury, Burnley, Oldham, Rochdale and Preston within easy reach. Neither Sheffield or Bradford can claim that.
As that stands then, it is some achievement to be running at over 50% average attendance.
So what does this all mean? Well, if you've been paying attention then you will notice that I've been leaning the argument towards the fact that, rather than being shit fans, Bolton Wanderers fans are probably amongst, if not the, best in League One. Large stadium but good support? Check. Town near large conurbation which has two of the biggest clubs on its doorstep but still maintains support? Check. Large ticket prices but still come to the games? Check.
Imagine if they reduced the prices?
By the way, here's the full list of average attendance against overall capacity up to this weekend's games.
AFC WIMBLEDON 94.35
BRISTOL ROVERS 77.05
NORTHAMPTON TOWN 73.04
BRADFORD CITY 71.25
OXFORD UNITED 66.94
SOUTHEND UNITED 53.27
SHEFFIELD UNITED 51.63
BOLTON WANDERERS 51.06
SHREWSBURY TOWN 50.93
SCUNTHORPE UNITED 48.10
SWINDON TOWN 43.66
CHARLTON ATHLETIC 40.74
PETERBOROUGH UNITED 38.47
MILTON KEYNES DONS 31.41
COVENTRY CITY 28.02
OLDHAM ATHLETIC 26.91
PORT VALE 23.28