Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View

There's no problem attracting a big crowd for games like the Arsenal cup tie but Deepdale attendances have been struggling
There's no problem attracting a big crowd for games like the Arsenal cup tie but Deepdale attendances have been struggling
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A light-hearted remark from Simon Grayson towards the end of his post-match press conference at Barnsley was to transport the room back to the 1980s and 1990s.

The conversation had turned to the closing of the transfer window a few days before and the relief which accompanied it, bearing in mind a couple of big offers had been batted off.

My question to Grayson at that juncture was how much of a distraction the transfer window was and could he do anything as a manager to stop heads being turned by speculation?

Rather clumsily, I asked whether interest could be kept away from players, in the sense of them being told to ignore it and keep their focus on training and matches.

The North End boss took it more as whether he could hide speculation from the players and his answer took us down Memory Lane.

“You try keeping it away from players this day and age,” said Grayson.

“Maybe when Ceefax and Teletext was happening, things were a little bit easier to keep quiet!”

When Grayson got up to leave the conference, he nodded in the direction of my younger Lancashire Post colleague Adam Lord, saying: “Dave, I’ll let you to explain to Adam what Ceefax was.”

Ceefex and Teletext, the halcyon and almost innocent days of football coverage.

Forget Twitter, Facebook and T’interweb, this was the business.

Ceefax was king, Teletext more of a back-up but with a local element to it.

It was a case of switching the television on, pressing ‘text’ and there were pages of information before your eyes.

Score updates were three to a page, as you inevitably landed on the page after the one you wanted.

Emotions were poised on a knife-edge as the pages slowly turned over before coming to your team.

Still 0-0, so you’d wait for the full turn of pages again in the hope the block graphics would reveal a goal.

For a midweek game with no Grandstand to watch, it would be a case of hogging the remote all evening and staring at the pages, the sound on mute.

Heaven forbid if your TV reception was a bit on the dodgy side though, the pages became unreadable.

Football was page 302 on Ceefax, scores on pages 303, 304 and so on.

Page 323 was football in brief, page after page of news, injuries, transfers and gossip.

There was the famous tale of Wycombe Wanderers signing striker Roy Essandoh after an appeal on Teletext for a player who wasn’t cup tied.

Essandoh scored their winner in an FA Cup quarter-final tie at Leicester.

Such an appeal on Twitter or Facebook would not have quite the same sense of romance would it?

In my early reporting days for a press agency, my copy from Preston home games filed to the Press Association was subbed down to a few paragraphs to fit the page.

As a rookie reporter, I would keep my cuttings from the newspapers but screen grabs off the television were a thing for the future.

Moving forward to the present, and the size of crowds which will come through the turnstiles at Deepdale when Preston host Brentford and Birmingham will get plenty of scrutiny, judging by the debate I have followed on Twitter of late.

Crowds for some of North End’s home games have not been great this season.

The clashes with Aston Villa, Newcastle, Arsenal, Leeds and to a lesser dgree, Blackburn, have taken care of themselves.

But it is proving a struggle to attract half-decent numbers for the visits of clubs who on paper, don’t carry the same attraction as those mentioned above.

The last home game was against Ipswich a fortnight ago and saw an attendance of 10,656.

It was a shade lower than the November clash with Burton, while the September midweek win over Cardiff saw the crowd hovering just over the 9,200 mark.

With the forthcoming trip to Wigan on course for a 4,700 sell-out and ticket sales for the Gentry Day clash at Fulham around the 2,000 mark with three weeks still to go, it is the away days which are currently getting the attention.

Another huge following to Blackburn in March will be on the cards, while 2,700 went to Villa last month.

Cheaper ticketing and ticket offers have been suggested as a way of boosting attendances, so too fan zones outside the ground.

I think a meeting of minds would be ideal on this subject, the club and a cross-section of supporters getting around the table – not in the full glare of a fans’ forum at this stage – to swap ideas.

If certain routes cannot be gone down, at least that can be explained and maybe alternatives suggested.

There is a very decent squad being steadily put together at North End, with some talented players at the core of it.

Having as many people as possible watching it and thus helping it develop, is surely in everyones’ interest.