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Fleet Life with Ed Miller: Public show of support takes us halfway there

PUBLISHED: 17:06 04 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:26 23 August 2010

WELL, that s the last time I underestimate Joe Public s capacity to be swayed by a little good marketing and a freebie. I was pleasantly surprised by how many we took to Wembley in May, but privately thought we d be lucky to break the 2,000 barrier last

WELL, that's the last time I underestimate Joe Public's capacity to be swayed by a little good marketing and a freebie.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many we took to Wembley in May, but privately thought we'd be lucky to break the 2,000 barrier last Saturday.

That's not me being a mardy old killjoy, but my opinion based on experiences of previous disappointing turnouts in years gone by.

We barely registered an attendance rise when we were challenging for the play-offs and even crowds below 3,000 for the Notts County FA Cup game and last season's Trophy semi-final first leg were poor given their relative importance.

And so, even with last Saturday's game being free, I wasn't convinced the lure of Swindon Supermarine's household names (with all due respect to our opponents), plus the traditional disinterest in the early rounds of the Trophy, would be enough to conjure up the sort of crowd that MyFC must have been hoping for when the initiative was launched.

How wrong could I get? The attendance bettered that of the Colchester FA Cup game 13 years ago and was only beaten by the Canvey match when we were squeezed in like sardines and the Nottingham Forest friendly of 1980 in the last 30 years.

Free entry or not, that is a highly respectable feat at fairly short notice and one where those involved deserve a damned good pat on the back for origination and organisation.

Even the cost of subsidising the free entrance has more than likely been halved or better with treble the usual bar takings and club merchandise sold, not to mention money spent on food and donations on the day. It's obviously not something the club could sustain on even an annual basis and there is also evidence to suggest that lower ticket prices wouldn't necessarily attract significantly more punters but, as a one-off marketing and feelgood exercise, it didn't do anyone any harm and certainly heightened the club's profile.

I did hear two begrudgers knowingly complain that: "it was all a marketing exercise"... well, durr, imagine that. A business selling itself by coming up with a few media-friendly marketing initiatives. Goodness me, whatever next? It seems some of us would be far happier playing in front of two men and a dog.

Saturday also marked another salvo in MyFC's battle for renewals which climaxes in two weeks. The club certainly feels in a state of limbo at the moment with the future unclear. Anything over 15,000 renewals will feel like a job done and a basis to progress; above 10,000 wouldn't be a disaster; below 10,000 will probably require a re-think as to how the membership moves the club on and keeps it functioning at this level.

We are entering a crucial period. On the field, we are still on course for Wembley, but also desperately requiring league points to ensure our survival in this division.

Off the field, we are dependent on the good grace of those new fans who have been following us from around the world. Failure in either of those two areas would be a hammer blow to our ambitions but, as Saturday showed us, there is still plenty of success to be had with some good ideas and a little application.

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