Tuesday’s Liverpool Senior Cup tie against Marine might have seen Prescot Cables bow out of the tournament, but the fantastic attendance of 1,051 will have been as morale-boosting for the club as the valiant performance from a patched-up team. The midweek match was the fourth Cables home game this season watched by more than a thousand fans. On social media, the club hailed the surge in support and programme focus group member Jon Rawnsley suggested that this season might have seen more four-figure gates at Prescot than in the preceding eighteen years!

So, I checked. Of course I checked, I love a good stat. Thanks to the legendary Ken Derbyshire, I had the data going all the way back to 2000-01, when the club was in the North West Counties League. However, for the purposes of this exercise I limited my number-crunching to the club’s membership of the Northern Premier League, which began in the 2003-04 season.

That first campaign saw an average of 202 supporters in attendance at Cables’ home matches, although there was a relatively small range of attendances. The best crowd in 2003-04 was 283, while the worst was 158. If you want a measure of how much the Pesky Bulls’ fanbase has grown in recent years, consider this: this season’s lowest attendance here at the Joseph Russell Stadium was 272, for a Liverpool Senior Cup tie against Pilkington XXX, just nine fewer than the highest attendance in Cables’ first season at Step 4.

The club’s first 1,000+ gate of this period was against Liverpool on 14th April 2008, when 1,387 people attended a Liverpool Senior Cup tie won by a young Reds side. The next match to break four figures was on New Year’s Day 2011, when ‘phoenix club’ Chester FC attracted 1,024 people through the turnstiles. However, the 2010-11 season also saw the lowest home game of Cables’ two decades of NPL membership when a County Cup tie against Formby was watched by 80 hardy souls. This isn’t the lowest overall crowd to watch a competitive match involving Prescot Cables since they left the North West Counties League; just 38 people saw a match between Cammell Laird and Cables at Kirklands on Boxing Day 2012.

After Chester’s visit to Hope Street, Cables had five consecutive seasons where the season’s highest crowd included fewer than 400 people. It’s a sign of how much the club was struggling during this period that the best gate of the 2012-13 season was 190, for a match with Skelmersdale United, while the 2014-15 League match against Salford City pulled in only 89 spectators. I wonder whatever happened to Salford City?

But, then… things started to pick up again. I started watching the club at the beginning of the 2016-17, which ended with the Liverpool Senior Cup being lifted by Cables in front of 905 supporters. The following season saw 973 fans in attendance for a Friday night FA Cup tie with City of Liverpool. The 2019 Liverpool Senior Cup Final saw the highest crowd on our famous old ground for a decade, as 1,226 people saw Southport hang on for a goalless draw, then steal the silverware in a penalty shoot-out.

The last three seasons have all seen at least one crowd of 1,000 or more. There were almost two in 2021-22 as, in addition to a gate of 1,310 against Runcorn Linnets there was a crowd of 997 against Marine. Last season, a feisty Friday night match against City of Liverpool was watched by 1,348 people; the highest attendance at the Joseph Russell Stadium for some fifteen years.

This season has seen what was already an upward trend explode exponentially. There have been four matches already this season which have broken four figures while the LOWEST League attendance of the campaign – 420 against Clitheroe – exceeds the HIGHEST attendance in ten of the 21 seasons Cables have played in the Northern Premier League.

These are remarkable numbers when you consider that we operate in the eighth tier of English club football. By contrast, in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Riyadh SC have an average attendance of 209 and even that has been boosted by getting 8,600 against Al-Ittihad and almost 7,000 against Al-Hilal. Against Al-Okhdood, there were just 133 fans inside the 15,000 capacity Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Stadium.

However many people are in attendance this afternoon and whatever happens in the remaining matches, this has been a remarkable season for Prescot Cables. The incredible support the Pesky Bulls have enjoyed from the terraces has been a major factor. Which leaves one question: was Jon right?

Basically, yes. So far this season, there have been four 1,000+ attendances here at the Joseph Russell Stadium, compared to five in the previous twenty seasons! Something special really is stirring in L34.