Low crowds not holding back Brewers
17 May ~ Burton Albion came to national attention while still a non-League team in 2006, when they held Manchester United to a goalless draw in the FA Cup third round. It was a night fondly remembered by Brewers fans, with both Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney setting foot in the Pirelli Stadium. Burton might have lost the replay 5-0 at Old Trafford, but this signalled the beginning of a golden era for the club, who now find themselves in the League Two play-offs for the second season running.
Breaking into the Football League in 2009-10 the club struggled after a mid-table finish in their first season, with manager Paul Peschisolido sacked following six consecutive league defeats in March 2012. After steering the team to 17th place, assistant manager Gary Rowett was given the full-time job. He oversaw a fourth-place finish in his first full season in charge which ended with a play-off semi-final defeat to Bradford City. Rowett's side face Southend United in the second leg of the play-offs today, having won the first leg 1-0 at home.
That the Brewers managed to finish in the play-off places for a second season running is some achievement, especially as two of the club's best players, Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma, departed on free transfers to Aberdeen and Sheffield Wednesday respectively last season. Meanwhile, former goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson is now training as a professional wrestler with WWE.
But players from around the Football League seem keen to join Burton, no doubt influenced by the fact that the team train at St George's Park, the National Football Centre. Striker Adam McGurk, who was signed at the start of the season and scored last weekend against Southend, was coveted by Birmingham City, and shrewd loan signings such as Zeli Ismail from Wolves and Sheffield United's Callum McFadzean have also been a success.
Burton's only other visit to Wembley was an FA Trophy final defeat to Kidderminster Harriers in 1987. If they make it this time it's fair to assume that their support will be boosted by some of the fans of bigger nearby clubs, notably Derby County, who tend to turn up for the Brewers' bigger matches. Burton's average crowd last season of 2,720 placed them down in 20th among League Two clubs. If they do move up a level, finding ways increase local interest will one of the main challenges facing the club. Lewis Rymond