17th January 1948. Packing them in.
After the disruption of war Football League matches saw record crowds as Today in 1948, when 82,950 packed into Maine Road, Manchester to see United, whose home ground was bombed, draw with 1-1 with Arsenal.(1)
It was a time of standing on packed terraces with Saturday kick-offs at 3 pm by local heroes on modest wages, before television and company sponsorship changed the game.
Crowds in the early days were large; the 1901 Final, when Tottenham, the only non-League club to win the Cup (after a replay), was attended by 114,815, the largest crowd to date registered in England.
Record attendances were reached pre-War II when Maine Road packed in 84,569 in 1934.
The biggest official attendance for a match in Britain was the 149,547 who watched England play Scotland in 1937 at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
Then in 1939 Glasgow Rangers had 118,567 at Ibrox in an ‘Old Firm’ Derby.(2)
Football crowds in total were to reach a peak of 41.25 million in the 1948-9 season, the ‘Golden-Age’ of football for many, at a time when there were few other distractions on a Saturday afternoon for the mass of supporters who were then mainly men.
The records for the lowest attendance for a Saturday League match goes to the short lived Thames AFC, members for of the Football League for two seasons between 1930-2, who finished 20th in their first season and then bottom in Division 3 (south).
Playing at West Ham Stadium, Prince Regent’s Lane, 469 watched them beat Luton 1-0, (3) whilst the Division 3 match at Spotland played on a Tuesday afternoon, owing to power cuts, in February 1974 between Rochdale and Cambridge was seen by only 450.
We will never see the packed, little standing-room terraces of yesteryear, where children were passed down to the front, where cheering not menacing tuneless yawping was the norm, where one could go on impulse to watch a match for a pittance, a happy experience.
(1) It wasn’t until 1949 that Manchester United were able to play again at Old Trafford before a crowd of 41,748, when they beat Bolton 3-0. The rebuilding was financed by local businessman John William Gibson who had made money supplying army uniforms.
(2a) Against Stoke in FA CUP 6th Round 3.3.1934.
b. Scotland v England on 17.4.1937.
c. Div 1 match, Rangers v Celtic.
(3) On 6.12.1930.
exhibition.europeana eu/Forest Pic.