Anton Rippon: Senior Rams fans right to feel angry over price hike
JUDGING by the subsequent flood of letters to this newspaper, I wasn't the only senior citizen for whom the arrival of renewal forms for Derby County's 2013-14 season tickets prompted an urgent rummage through old bank statements.
I doubt I was alone in wanting to check what I'd paid last year, because nowhere in the accompanying literature was there any mention of a 25 per cent rise in the cost of my ticket to see the Rams.
To be fair, over recent seasons the club has kept prices at reasonable rates. And, since they'd not made sensible but small seasonal adjustments to account for inflation. I suppose we all knew that this day was coming.
But a whopping 25 per cent – with no apology or reason? The letter from Sam Rush, president and CEO, didn't bother to mention the price rise. He might at least have acknowledged that some of the club's most loyal and long-serving supporters were going to be hit in the wallet. He couldn't really have hoped that nobody would notice. Or that, if they did, then they wouldn't mind. An explanation as to why it was necessary would have been appreciated.
As it is, senior supporters to whom I have spoken feel taken for granted. Offended even. "They know we'll keep coming so they don't care," was a common theme.
But will they? It raised further doubts in the minds of many for whom supporting the Rams has been a lifelong passion.
Even before the price-rise shocker, I'd heard more than a few disgruntled voices. Daft kick-off times were one bone of contention. Five-twenty on Saturday teatime is a stupid time to start a football match. It inconveniences beyond measure the home fans. And apart from supporters of the away club, is anyone else in the UK watching?
Not all inconvenient kick-off times are forced upon the club by television, however. And turning out on Friday evenings is anathema to many old-time fans, for whom Saturday afternoons will always be the natural time to watch football. And there isn't another Saturday 3pm kick-off until the visit of Ipswich Town on April 6th.
Of course, we'd happily put up with the inconvenience if we could get genuinely excited about our prospects.
Sam Rush's letter did tell us that he was keen to improve the atmosphere at Pride Park – and we assume he knows the best way to do that. It certainly isn't achieved by fiddling around with where people sit.
Uncertainty about the ultimate aims of Derby County's owners will be the major factor in supporters' decision making. There are clubs with less support and less potential than the Rams but who seem to fare much better. I should imagine that most Derby supporters find that frustrating.
Which sent me on a daydream to happier times because, as regular readers of this column will know, I take pleasure in looking back. Judging from your letters, you do too.
We all have our favourite eras. For those who remember it, that of most supporters would be the Clough-Taylor days. Slightly younger fans might want to recall Bobby Davison, or Dean Sanders. And there are still a few fans of Carter-Doherty vintage around.
But this week, I'm not looking back too far. Only to the days after Pride Park had opened, when Derby County could give anyone in the Premier League a game and Jim Smith's wonderful team – Poom, Stimac, Eranio et al – were a delight to watch week in, week out. That would have been a better time to jack up the price by 25 per cent. Now, though? It will be interesting to see what the response has been, come April 14th.