Sue Smith - Whether for or against you - it is great to be getting supporters back
It is brilliant that next week football will take the first steps towards getting people back into stadia.
It is sad for the Yorkshire clubs that only Harrogate Town will be able to have their own fans in and I do not quite understand why there is a blanket maximum of 2,000 (it could be less because of issues around access and other matters) in Tier 2 regardless of the size of grounds.
The people I am most pleased for is the fans who get tickets, and the majority of players. Football has not been the same without supporters.
Middlesbrough were involved in one of the September pilot matches and their manager for the day Kevin Blackwell – Neil Warnock was self-isolating – commented on how even just having 1,000 Bournemouth fans added to the atmosphere, quality and intensity of the game. That tallies with my experience.
As a Tranmere Rovers player in the 1990s when women’s football was still establishing itself in terms of popularity, I would regularly play in front of very small crowds, but when I played at international level and in FA Cups I experienced much bigger gates and what they could do for you as a player.
When I played for Doncaster Rovers Belles at the Keepmoat we might only have had 500 or 600 in a 15,000-capacity stadium but even that gave you a boost.
Although the fans are lost in the stadium, you can still hear them cheering – and in the case of the Belles fans, ringing bells – so it will give a bit of an advantage to Tier 2 clubs.
Maybe those still playing behind closed doors should speak to the players about whether they would appreciate having artificial crowd noise piped in.
I saw Moses Odubajo told The Yorkshire Post this week he thought Sheffield Wednesday should do it having experienced it on away grounds.
I have covered games this season where it has been done and when I watch on television I always like crowd noise in the background because it just feels more like a proper game, so I can understand. A lot of players like routines and if it gives you one per cent advantage, do it.
More importantly, this is the first step towards getting people back to regularly watching football live.
I speak to a lot of friends who regularly go to games and they are just missing the match day. It will be great for those that can get back into their routines.
Some teams and players will have suffered through not having fans, but others will have benefited.
It will be interesting to see if the players who have excelled in this time go backwards, and if those who have not been able to get themselves up for games so easily improve.
Will the teams who have been sitting back find that so easy with fans cheering them on again? Will they become less organised or throw themselves into tackles they might not otherwise?
When I went from club to international level, the big thing I noticed was we could not hear each other any more – or the manager. Sometimes as a winger it would be a relief to be on the opposite side!
When we played against Arsenal I used to really get on with their manager Vic Akers, but he would constantly tell is players to show me on my right foot. I would try to show him by going in on my right, then not do anything with it, so he was playing mind games he could not with 30,000 people in the stands.
It will be a case of adapting slowly because 2,000 fans is not the same as a capacity crowd but it is still 2,000 people shouting that you have not been used to for months.
This time next week Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Doncaster Rovers should be playing away in front of fans.
I always loved playing in front of people whether they were cheering or booing me because it would always give me extra motivation. If they cheer you, it is a really good feeling and you want it again. If they are booing, you want to shut them up.
I remember playing in Italy once in a very hostile atmosphere and when I was wide I felt too close to the fans but that still gave me a buzz. Some other girls went into their shells, though.
Generally, though, the return of fans will be hugely welcomed. Hopefully the capacities and the number of clubs increase very quickly.
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