Forget the results on the pitch. The “big” news so far this season has been the move of the Holmesdale Fanatics to Block E in the centre of the Lower Holmesdale away from their corner perch in Block B. Four league home matches in – has there been much change?
As a dweller in Block E (fourth row), I am in a good position to hear and see (when I turn around!) the noise coming from the new residents. Before getting into that, it is worth a reminder of how we got here.
Cast your mind back to the start of last season. The Holmesdale Fanatics (HF) were “on strike” due to the perceived lack of action from the club in arranging their desired move from Block B on the edge of the Holmesdale to the centre of the stand.
The motivation for the move was a more prominent location in the centre of the stand and better noise generation created by a more central location. It all got fairly heated with the HF and the club trading statements in public and a flat atmosphere during the home matches. Of course, the atmosphere was not helped by there being no home wins until Burnley in December (!).
Credit to the club and the HF, they were able to work out a compromise which meant that the HF were able to make their move this season. Although I was not directly affected by the move and therefore do not know the full picture, I know there was some real unhappiness within the 400 or so existing Block E season ticket holders both about the move and the compensation they were offered.
It would be wrong of me to comment on this either way since I do not know the facts, but I fear that there is some bad feeling here still which is a shame. Having said that I do think the fact that the club and the HF were able to work out some form of compromise (even if not everyone came away happy) reflects well on them compared to our current political leaders. Steve Parish for Prime Minister? Okay, maybe not.
Although I confess I might feel differently if I was one of the “Block E 400”, I have always been a supporter of what the HF do. To have a group of, mostly, young people who are passionate about supporting the club in a positive way and are prepared to make their views known on issues wider than Crystal Palace Football Club has got to be something we should all be proud of.
Once again, some of the HFs wider “commentary’ in terms of tifos and banners may not be to everyone’s taste but they are prepared to make a statement on what they believe in, almost always in a positive way. The presence of the HF helps generally to keep the chanting positive, in support of the players on the pitch; without resorting to abuse of the opposition (most of the time). As an example, last season after Mo Salah’s temporary loss of balance resulted in a penalty, pretty much the only song sung after that was a description of Salah as being a part of the female anatomy. The novelty rapidly wore off. That would not have happened if the HF were in force. Of course, there will always be some ritual goading of the opposition supporters (“We forgot that your were here, can you hear the [insert name of visiting club] etc) but that is standard football fare.
The question remains, however, has all the trauma and upset been worth it in terms of a new improved atmosphere and noise compared to previous seasons?
At this stage I would have to give it a qualified yes. There is no question that there is more audible singing and chanting throughout the match now, but that is mainly due to the HF being behind us rather than off to the side.
Where we sit, generally the singing and chanting is fairly sporadic, i.e. at the start of the match, during periods of good play by us and of course after goals. The rest of the time a few people around us are singing but the majority are not. With the HF behind us it is easier to keep the singing up, but I often feel I am in the minority, which is similar to previous seasons. It would be interesting to know whether people in the Main Stand or Arthur Wait have noticed a significant difference in volume.
The one big negative has been there has been some pushing and shoving between supporters in two of the four home leagues matches I have been to, in particular before the Everton match and after the Wolves match (my guess is the latter would not have taken place if we had not let in that last second goal). I have no idea what the cause was, but I fear there may be some residual bad feeling over the move to Block E.
Overall, I do believe the more central and prominent location of the HF will help to maintain and build the atmosphere in the rest of the ground. Eventually the section devoted to the HF may expand over time, although I doubt we will end up with a Red and Blue Wall like the Yellow Wall at Borussia Dortmund. It’s nice to dream though!