High winds and flooding made travelling by road perilous in some parts. It is nigh on impossible to know if your train will even turn up, let alone reach its destination.
But there is no VAR and a desperate need to prove there is life outside the Premier League.
On New Year’s Day, fans reminded the footballing public that although the Championship is second tier by name, it is by no means second rate in terms of its support.
Instead, the average attendance across the day’s 12 matches topped a remarkable 25,000, highlighting the passion of fans in a league that has become the 10th-best attended in the world.
Average attendances are up more than 21 per cent on last season, proving that even without Match of the Day-style gloss and a bumper broadcast deal, there is still a product worth investing in.
Average attendances in the Championship are up by 21 per cent on last season. A staggering 42,714 watched Sunderland beat Preston 2-0 on New Year’s Day
More people watched Leeds take on Birmingham at Elland Road – Wayne Rooney’s final game in the Blues dugout – than Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid in December
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A staggering 42,714 turned out to watch Sunderland’s game against Preston on Monday. In fact, the average attendance at the Stadium of Light this season eclipses that of Italian giants Juventus. On the same day, more people watched Leeds hammer the final nail in Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham coffin at Elland Road than Spanish giants Barcelona’s clash with Atletico Madrid in December.
Not since the early 1950s, when the post-war high led thousands to football grounds to make the most of the freedoms they had been robbed of, has football been this popular. So the key question is, why?
No doubt fans being locked out of stadiums for nearly a year and a half due to the Covid pandemic has played its part.
Fans desperate to be back in the thick of it on the terraces, the smell of Bovril in their nostrils, have returned in their droves and stayed.
The figures also come despite the backdrop of rising inflation. Take your children to a game, buy them a programme, a bar of chocolate and a bottle of drink and the cost of the day can be as much as a weekend staycation.
But for many it is a small price to pay for tradition. Try telling any one of the 27,489 watching second-bottom Sheffield Wednesday beat Hull at Hillsborough at up to £43 a pop that they were wasting their money.
Many have become disillusioned with the might of the Premier League, not least its use of VAR.
‘No VAR as a match-going fan is good because you can actually celebrate goals,’ says Jack Holmes, a Leicester fan and co-host of the Big Strong Leicester Boys podcast.
Leicester fan and podcaster Jack Holmes thinks Championship games are more exciting with no VAR and believes fans are more connected to their clubs
Fans are turning up in their droves even if football is becoming more expensive to attend
‘The bits I remember about football are last-minute winners where you can celebrate and you know the game’s won.
‘VAR has completely ruined that and taken the emotion out of the game.
‘I actually feel sorry for fans when the game is being strung out by three or four minutes when they’re checking every angle.’
Premier League clubs were quick to parrot the line that ‘football without fans is nothing’ during the pandemic, but the feeling remains that many still take their support for granted.
‘You feel much more connected to a club in the Championship than you do a Premier League club,’ Holmes tells Mail Sport. ‘Clubs have to work harder when they’re in the Championship in order to engage their audiences and that makes you feel a bit closer to the club.
‘The Premier League is so big and showbiz and I think a lot of the grounds are just full of football tourists, whereas by and large Championship grounds are full of people who care about their clubs, they’re not in it for anything else.’
League One broke into Europe’s 10 best-attended leagues last season while certain League Two clubs pull big crowds
A rise in the quality of football across the EFL has also made going to games a more attractive prospect, as has the increased inclusivity at matches.
The impressive figures do not stop in the Championship, either. Take a look down the pyramid and you will see Derby bringing in more fans in the third tier than seven-time Serie A champions Bologna this season.
Fellow former top-flight sides including Portsmouth and Bolton helped to push League One into the top 10 best attended leagues in Europe across the 2022-23 season.
Delve down into League Two and you will find mid-table Bradford bringing an average of 17,900 through the Valley Parade turnstiles each week this season.
Wrexham fans joke that it is easier to get a ticket for Glastonbury than one of their games
Meanwhile, Wrexham fans joke that it is easier to get a ticket for Glastonbury than a game at the Racecourse Ground these days. They will not struggle to fill their new 5,500-seat stand when it opens either. But the figures show it is not just Wrexham who have the Hollywood appeal these days.
A remarkable 21.7million fans passed through turnstiles for EFL competitions last season and that trend does not look like changing any time soon, come rain or shine.
‘High attendances across the divisions over the festive period are testament to the efforts of the 72 EFL clubs who offer quality football and matchday experiences for fans,’ an EFL spokesperson told Mail Sport.
‘The holiday programme is a much-loved part of our game and we look forward to seeing people continuing to support their clubs through 2024.’