Wolves and Aston Villa may have come up short on the pitch, but not on the terraces, explains Tim Nash.
You can knock the owner, you can knock the manager and you can knock the players. But please, don’t have a go at the crowd.
Wolves and Villa prepare for their biggest home games of the season this Saturday in their respective fights against the drop against a backdrop of an impressive show of faith at the turnstiles.
When Wolves trot out against Bristol City at Molineux and Villa welcome QPR, they will be hoping to not just win on the pitch, but in the box office, too.
Their levels of support prove their fans have more staying power than the teams they follow.
It might not always seem that way, with Wolves expecting to announce a big drop in the take-up of their annual Early Bird season ticket offer any day now, and Molineux as prickly as it is passionate at times.
But the attendance figures tell a different story, with fans continuing to turn up in droves in spite of the often dreadful football they have had to watch this season.
Wolves’ average crowd has dropped from 25,682 last season to 21,708 this time – the 15.5 per cent fall hardly surprising given their abysmal record and the lower numbers of away fans attending.
Last season’s figure put them 13th highest in the Premier League, while this time, they are the sixth highest in the Championship – despite the juggernaut-like decline of the team.
That is a commendable show of loyalty considering the team have won just four times in 30 home league games going back to December 2011.
And Wolves still have a higher average crowd than top-flight teams Swansea, Wigan and Queens Park Rangers.
Molineux regularly boasts bigger attendances than Leeds, who still harbour faint hopes of the plaay-offs, and fifth-placed Leicester.
The comparatively healthy figure has been helped by the Early Bird renewals of a year ago, when over 12,000 fans renewed their season tickets for what was then still a Premier League club.
But you could also argue that the rot had already set in by then, and Wolves’ loyal ‘customers’ knew what they were signing up for.
During this wretched spell, Wolves have lost 17 times at Molineux and conceded 59 goals, testing their supporters’ patience to the limit.
Fans have been embarrassed by five-goal hammerings to Albion and Manchester United and seen their woeful team register nine blanks and be relegated along the way.
And yet, despite all this desperate form, they have continued to support the team.
There have been isolated but understandable examples of the supporters displaying their frustration at the crisis.
Around 300 demonstrated after the home games with Albion and Blackburn last spring, with former boss Mick McCarthy then owner Steve Morgan and chief executive Jez Moxey the respective targets.
More recently, 50 fans protested before the televised Watford game, when supporters also cheered the substitution of winger Stephen Hunt.
Moxey is fully appreciative, however, and paid his own tribute to Wolves’ long-suffering fans.
He said: "Considering what fans have had to endure, the support we have received has really been quite remarkable.
“The club is going through a terribly difficult time but no-one can level any blame whatsoever against the supporters.
“In fact, I am surprised we’ve not had more of a negative reaction, obviously we don’t want that but you could hardly blame them if it happened.
"But, so far, the fans have been fantastic. Where the team is has nothing to do with them.”
Villa’s crowds have also held up extremely well, with this season’s average of 33,498 placing them 11th highest in the Premier League.
That's only fractionally lower than last term’s 33,873 (15th), when they finished 16th under Alex McLeish.
Not surprisingly, boom team West Brom show the only increase in gates in our region, rising from 24,798 last season to 25,188 this time.
Ironically, this puts them a place lower in the top-flight crowd table this season in 16th compared to last term’s 15th.
But it is surely a measure of the successful way the Baggies and Swansea are run that they are 16th and 18th in the attendance chart and yet eighth and ninth in the Premier League.
Talking of success, Walsall are thrilling the Banks’s Stadium fan-base despite a drop in average crowds.
Despite a big improvement from Dean Smith’s side on the field with last night’s success against Tranmere boosting their play-off push, their gates have dipped some 10 per cent from 4,274 to 3,850.Subscribe to our Newsletter