Gary Johnson: Premier League safe standing after almost three decades

Torbay Weekly

When my dad took me and my brother to White Hart Lane in the late 1960s, to watch my favourite player Alan Gilzean and Jimmy Greaves play for Spurs, I nearly always sat down.

No, we were on the terraces like nearly everyone else. But I usually managed to sit on one of the barriers, because that was the only way I could see over all the big blokes around us.

As time went on, I did get down and stand on the terraces. And, like a lot of other fans, you sort of got your own space after a time, as long as you were there early enough.

I know many of our Pop Siders at Plainmoor have been standing in their same spots for years, and I don't think there's much doubt that there's never been anything like a standing terrace of fans for generating real noise and atmosphere.

The advent of all-seater grounds, after the Hillsborough and other disasters, was understandable and helped to improve stadiums no end, although I know that fans of lower division clubs have always been happy that they still had terraces.

But the Chelsea v Liverpool game on January 2 will be the first at Premiership level to have a section of standing terracing again for almost 30 years.

Only a small group of Premiership and Championship clubs have been given the go-ahead at the moment, but it's surely something we'll see more of.

I think it's good that people at those levels will have the choice of standing or sitting again.

New terraces are much safer than the old ones, and there's a lot of clubs where people already stand up in the seats, so everyone has to stand up anyway. I've never been able to understand how safe that is.

One of the surprises for me is that people, or maybe more people, aren't injured when they are sitting, or standing, behind the goal.

I remember seeing some ladies with babies sitting just behind the goal at Plainmoor, and I was very conscious of it when our lads were doing some shooting in warm-ups.

I know some would say it might be safer to sit inside the goal then - only joking!

But we do try to do our shooting in one corner, where there are fewer people sitting behind the practice goal.

Still, I would still stress to everyone sitting in those areas: 'Keep your eyes peeled - and be aware'.

I would hate anyone to be hurt in those circumstances.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the FA Cup has been 'diminished' by the number of other competitions, and the way big clubs treat it these days.

Don't get me wrong, I would love us to have been playing at Charlton Athletic last Saturday.

It didn't sit right with me to have the weekend off, and I hope our boys felt like that as well.

But I see that Havant and Waterlooville, who knocked us out, were very disappointed with the gate at Charlton - only 3,800-odd. And more than 800 of those were Havant fans.

After expenses, they will have gone away with not much.

Of course, season-ticket holders have to pay for cup ties.

I don't know whether that's right or wrong, but the receipts have to be split between the two clubs with a share also going to the FA.

Maybe it's something that the authorities will have to look at, because, sadly, FA Cup attendances definitely aren't going the right way at the moment.

My son Lee came a cropper last Saturday, with Sunderland losing to Mansfield Town.

But Sunderland are also in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals, where they play Arsenal, and they're still in the Papa John's Trophy, which they won at Wembley last season.

So has their cup season been that bad?

I'm from a time when the FA Cup was as big as it got. Now I think people pick and choose which cup games to go to.

How times change, and I'm not sure for the better.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I know we're champing at the bit to get playing against Dover Athletic this weekend after that fortnight's break. Can't wait...