With attendences throughout the Premiership and lower divisions sinking to levels even Jeffrey Loria would laugh at, expert observers have tried to determine what ended the Soccer Boom (other than Chelsea winning their first 7 matches to start the season). As ticket prices are often cited, the Guardian’s Jamie Jackson seeks to compare a Saturday afternoon football match with a night out at the cinema.
Red Eye at Apollo Regent Street, London, £8.50
Some critics have hailed Wes Craven’s political assassination thriller for its psychological and sexual subtext as a female hotel manager duels with a blue-eyed terrorist on a flight to Miami – but there was more panache and subtlety down at the Recreation Ground, where Grays’ direct, effective football yielded four goals before half-time. Both venues have had a revamp. The Apollo has changed its regulation multi-screen livery to a sub-Blade Runner aesthetic featuring glittering stairways, in-toilet digital TVs and a bar lit like Stringfellows – mineral water £1.50, coffee £2. Down in deepest Essex, £5.10 buys a pint of Foster’s and a vodka and orange in Grays’ spruce new bar, while it’s £2.50 for an unconvincing burger (long queue, and the food ran out during the second half). Apollo staff were young and friendly; at the Rec the atmosphere was barrow-boy done good. This is Grays’ story, too, courtesy of local businessman Micky Woodward, who began investing five years ago and now has a full-time squad, a wage budget of £8,000 a week and annual bar takings of £750,000. The pitch is pristine, the ground a gleaming blue, and the club are second in the Conference, their highest position in their 115 years. It was enjoyable to stand close to the pitch, and the apartments that overlook one side offer individual charm. By the end of Red Eye, I was trying not to disturb the other four viewers with my laughter as Cillian Murphy’s hilariously unscary terrorist (above, right) had been reduced to croaking like a man in need of Lemsip rather than one hell-bent on murdering the heroine. It lacked the wit, even, of Cambridge United supporters singing ‘What a load of rubbish!’ to their own team. 1,543 turned up to see Grays win 5-3 and while it was hardly live theatre, it was certainly better than theme park cinema.