By 90Min
February 10, 2018

Sunderland bade farewell to their top Premier League status last season, but even as a Championship club still command higher attendances than many top flight sides. The same can be said of Leeds, out of the Premier League since 2004, and Aston Villa, relegated in 2016.

These and others like them have been dubbed English football's 'sleeping giants', teams who remain very popular among local support, but whose performances on the pitch don't match up.

A graphic published by the Financial Times shows a number of these former big clubs punching above their weight in terms of attendances.

The likes of Villa, Leeds, Sunderland and Nottingham Forest benefit from being based in big cities and can count on big support built on historic achievements. It means that their attendances remain larger than expected even after falling on hard times in recent years.

Given that Newcastle regularly get more than 50,000 people into St James' Park, the Magpies, who are fighting a relegation battle, are also a 'sleeping giant'. Prior to recent expansion works both at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium, more fans watched Newcastle than Liverpool or Manchester City respectively.

According to graphic, even Manchester United have a large crowd compared to their league place. That is less about underachieving and more related to the size of Old Trafford, one of the biggest club stadiums in the whole of Europe.


Lower down the league ladder, Portsmouth, Lincoln and Chesterfield, all clubs which are the only one in their city/town, should arguably be doing better given the size of their support.

On the other side of the coin, Bournemouth are considerably punching above their weight when it comes to the mismatch between their league ranking and their average support. The Cherries almost fill their ground every week, but the Vitality Stadium is so small it means their average attendance is still significantly the lowest in the Premier League - around 10,600.

The same is true for Burton Albion in the Championship. The Brewers were a non-league club until 2009 and didn't make it out of League Two until 2015. As such, their attendances haven't caught up with their rise through the divisions and the average remains under 5,000 per game. Even full, their Pirelli Stadium can hold no more than 7,000, and yet they share a league with Aston Villa and Leeds.

Alex Livesey/GettyImages

It is similar for other clubs with non-league histories, notably Morecambe, where attendances this season have been around the 1,200 to 1,500 mark, and Accrington Stanley.

(You may also be interested in '6 Surprising Clubs With Better Attendances Than the Premier League Average')

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