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Derby County aim to be fortress

Derby are aiming to make the most of home advantage next season by pushing their average crowd back up past the 30,000-mark. The Rams were the best supported team in the Championship over the 2008-9 campaign, with an average attendance of 29,440 at Pride Park Stadium.

And the club are hoping to give that statistic a boost in 2009-10.The signs are already looking good with season tickets sales up to 21,000 – including 1,700 new recruits – and well on course to surpass the 2008-9 figure of 22,500.

"I think we will be ahead of where were last year and I think we will definitely average over 30,000," said Tim Hinchey, Derby's vice president, commercial.

"I think there is no question that all of our weekend games, in particular, will be pushing capacity.

"We had nine crowds over 30,000 this season and I think we will average that this time around.

"We had seven home sell-outs this season and I think, next season, that figure will be in double digits."

In a bid to maximise home support, the Rams should be able to sell even more tickets to Derby fans next season, at games where the away team do not make use of their full allocation of seats.

Hinchey explained: "This season, the home games against Reading and Charlton were sell-outs for us, even though we didn't get to 33,000, because we were only allowed to sell 31,500 tickets as we had to have a big empty section underneath where our segregation is.

"We are investing this summer to add another gate underneath the stand, so we have the option of pushing the away support further into the corner.

"That way, if a team shows up with less than 1,000 people, we can sell more tickets to Derby fans.

"This will maximise the home support, which will be great for us and could help in making Pride Park a real fortress."

The Rams are in danger of losing their position at the top of the Championship attendance table next season, following the relegation of Newcastle United.

Newcastle had the third highest average attendance in the Premier League this season – 48,749 – a figure only bettered by Manchester United and Arsenal.

The other teams coming down from the top flight – Middlesbrough (28,428) and West Bromwich Albion (25,827) – both averaged less than Derby.

"I'm not prepared to give up the mantle just yet," said Hinchey. "Newcastle will have to come and take it off us!

"They have obviously got tremendous support but if they average 35,000 or more, then we will just have to make do with selling out as many home games as we can."

Derby averaged 32,432 during their ill-fated Premier League season in 2007-8 and 25,944 when they won promotion from the Championship in 2006-7. The season before that, they averaged 24,166.

Pride Park's capacity is currently just over 33,000.

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