Empty grounds will be football's normality in the months ahead - how that will impact on Preston North End

We can take it as read that football grounds are going to be empty and soulless places for the foreseeable future.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Preston North End fans in the away end at Blackburn's Ewood Park ground in January

It is the price to pay if this season is going to finish and indeed if next season is to start any time soon.

For fans, the only way to see matches will be live streams and broadcasts.

While players will be professional in their approach to matches, the fact that there will be no supporters there – either their own or opposition – is certain to have some effect.

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Some of the 2,900 PNE fans at Fulham in February

Preston North End have nine games remaining of their play-off push.

Although the size of their crowds at Deepdale do get knocked, PNE’s away support is very strong.

More than 6,000 went to Blackburn in January and 3,300 to Wigan Athletic the following month.

North End’s last away day before the season was paused saw more than 2,900 make the trip to Fulham’s Craven Cottage on February 29.

Preston fans at Fulham - PNE's last away game before the season was suspended

All four London trips had drawn followings of more than 1,100 – the win at Charlton on a Sunday lunchtime was watched by 1,128 Preston fans.

Had Covid-19 not swept the world and things carried on in blissful normality, this Saturday would have seen PNE heading to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City in the final game of the regular season.

At some point this summer by the looks of it, that game will be played behind closed doors – as will trips to Luton, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford.

Luton was called off just 24 hours before PNE were due at Kenilworth Road.

The North End faithful had snapped up the 1,000 or so tickets for the Luton trip in a matter of days, the club having to use priority sale.

The other remaining away games would all have drawn big away followings – just think what the scramble for tickets for Bristol City would have been like if PNE were still in contention.

At Deepdale, there was a spell in the mid 1980s when crowds slumped.

There was the infamous game against Scunthopre played on a Tuesday afternoon because the floodlight pylons had been condemned.

That attracted a crowd of 2,007, North End’s lowest for a league game in their history.

A couple of months later, just 768 turned out for a midweek afternoon kick-off against Bury in the Freight Rover Trophy.

When this season resumes, official crowd figures are going to read zero.