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My 50th Year Anniversary Of Watching Saints Today
Saturday, 15th Jan 2022 07:45

It's been a rollercoaster ride, but today is the 50th anniversary of my first ever Saints game when on 15th January 1972 I attended the Southampton V Manchester United FA Cup 3rd round tie at the Dell.

If you are going to go to your first professional football match at 10 years then you had better make it a big one and back in 1972 they didn't come any bigger than Manchester United.

Only 4 years earlier they had been the first English club to win the European Cup the forerunner of the Champions League under Matt Busby, although when they arrived at the Dell they had won nothing since that night at Wembley and they were a team in decline although they still had the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law in the side.

Busby stepped down in 1969 to be replaced by Wilf McGuiness, but that had not been a success and Busby would step in again temporarily before the man who managed them on this day took over, Frank O'Farrell.

The game was a sell out, which in those days meant over 30,000, indeed United had beaten us 5-2 around 6 weeks earlier in the league at the Dell with 30,323 present, but heavy rain keeping people away and perhaps creative accountancy meant that the official sell out attendance for this one was 28,160.

I had a ticket for the terracing under the West Stand and i watched the game seated on the white wall that separated the West Stand terracing from the little raised bit of terracing under the scoreboard, those who went to the Dell pre 1980's will know what I mean, although that wall survived until the ground was demolished and at the farewell dinner on the pitch in 2001 I sat on it for the last time and the memories flooded back.

Saints of course wore perhaps one of their most iconic kits, the stripes with a round collar, black shorts and the red socks with the single white hoop.

The Saints team was

Eric Martin
Bob McCarthy
Tony Byrne
Jimmy Gabriel
Roger Fry
Tom Jenkins
Mick Channon
Ron Davies
Terry Paine
Bobby Stokes
Gerry O'Brien

I can't be sure who the sub for us was, but it might have been Wayne Talkes

Manchester United played in Yellow shirts, Blue shorts & Yellow socks and it was a very bright kit to say the least, they lined up.

Alex Stepney
Paul Edwards
David Sadler
Francis Burns
Tommy O'Neil
Willie Morgan
George Best
Bobby Charlton
Alan Gowling
Brian Kidd
Denis Law

Sub Sammy McIllroy

Looking back it should have been another high scoring game, both sides were short on real quality at the back , there was no John McGrath, Dennis Hollywood or Joe Kirkup for Saints but we had the attacking prowess of Terry Paine, Ron Davies Mike Channon & Tommy Jenkins on the wing.

United's attack was the aforementioned Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, plus Willie Morgan on their wing.

But the pitch was a quagmire, to me it looked like the lushest turf I'd ever seen with the grass glistening under the floodlights, but it was a bog and that probably meant that neither side really got their game going.

But the game didn't lack for excitement and both sides had chances, but it was united attacking the bulk of their fans on the Archers Road end who scored first and perhaps the disappointment of seeing my first ever goal being scored by an opponent was lessened by the fact that it was Bobby Charlton, perhaps the most famous living Englishman at the time thumping it past Eric Martin from 12 yards.

So at half time it was united in the lead, the rain continued to hammer down and the pitch got boggier, Saints attacking the Archers end got a free kick on 55 minutes and it would be a then classic Saints goal, Terry Paine took a free kick on the left given for a foul on Mike Channon, it was swung in to the far post, up went Big Ron Davies, towering above his marker, knocking the ball down for Mike Channon, but it wasn't Channon who it went down to it was Jimmy Gabriel who fired it home to bring the game level.

This would be the last goal of the game though, the pitch got muddier, the players started to tire, there weren't multiple substitutions back in those days for tired legs, you played through the mud and the pain.

United had the best chance late on but it was blocked, the final whistle went and I can still remember running down Hill Lane to jump on the football special buses that parked up in Hill Lane, the number 17 was always full up after a game with excited kids and also adults who always liked a good moan, some things never change lol.

The replay at Old Trafford saw Saints lead 1-0 at half time this time Mike Channon scoring, but it finished 1-1 again after 90 minutes, the Echo reports after the game complained about the ref, stating that in the press box one neutral manager present said it was the worst refereeing performance he had ever seen and that all agreed the ref favoured the home side, so clear evidence that this was not invented by Alex Ferguson, it was way before his time.

The ref gave a free kick that was clearly not and united took the lead after six minutes of extra time, they collapsed late on and the 4-1 scoreline didn't reflect the way that Saints had played for most of the game, thanks here to Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk for their book In That Number, I was obviously too young to go myself.

So on this day 50 years ago began a love affair to which I now celebrate my Golden Anniversary of being wedded to Southampton Football Club.

Its been a roller coaster ride, I was there at the dell 2 years later when a draw with Manchester United helped towards relegation and I was there on that day at Wembley in 1976 & again for the League cup final in 2017, the grey shirts game in 1996 and the 6-3 victory 6 months later, in fact over the years beating United has been the result I have most cherished whatever the competition of season, OK sometimes Pompey got in the way of that one to push them back to second place.

I'm not sure how many games I have actually been to at the Dell, 29 seasons of around 25 games a season including cup games and friendlies would push the total to approaching 750 first team games, but I also went to a lot of reserve and youth team games, especially when I was too young to go to away games, add those to the mix and I must have gone to over 800 -900 games at the old ground.

I have watched games from all 4 sides of the ground, with all the new stands built, I have watched from 3 different Milton Road stands, 3 different Archers Road stands, I have sat upstairs in both the East & West stands and both sat and stood under the East & West.

I graduated after that game to the Milton Road, decamped to the Archers road in 1975/76 and after spending a couple of years in the early 1980,s watched most of the last 20 years from Under the East Stand, firstly on the terracing by The Tap as we called it and then in the seated areas around the half way line till that final day in May 2001.

It's amazing to think that we have been in St Mary's for 21 years, for me all from the same seat, even Nicola Cortese wasn't clever enough to stop me sitting in it despite his best efforts.

It's home now, but the two grounds reflect life, most of us are lucky enough to have fond memories of our childhood home(s) and then we move on in adulthood to pastures anew that are bigger and better, but you always have a glow when you think of the old days.

So here i am 50 years on and it is perhaps fitting that I celebrate it doing what i have usually done most weekend's going to watch Southampton Football Club, although this time it is not at home but away at Wolves.

Photo: Action Images

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SaintinHolland added 08:25 - Jan 15
Congratulations mate, that's quite the milestone. Always enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.

A1079 added 08:38 - Jan 15
Great memories and a good read and some good photos. Lets hope the anniversary is marked with a win or at least a draw.

ChristchurchSaint added 08:41 - Jan 15
Shows that we’re all getting old Nick! I will be soon at 60 years supporting our beloved team. My first match was 3rd March 1962, at the age of 9, we played Scunthorpe and won 6-4. Can’t remember too much, other than the great Terry Paine scored 2, and Derek Reeves and George O’Brien scored one each. I suppose it shows that we must be true fans, not the “plastics” who flit back and forth to whoever is the top team at the time! Happy Days!

felly1 added 09:08 - Jan 15
Congratulations Nick, the golden glow of old memories of the games at the Dell will always live with us lucky enough to remember our old ground.
First game for me was Bristol City 79-80 season. 5-2 win and a Boyer hatrick. I was in heaven!

Saintly_Mix added 09:49 - Jan 15
Thank you for your articles, I enjoy reading them. 50 years of supporting the Saints must in the main be maddening! But none of us would change or stripes. COYR.

kernow added 09:56 - Jan 15
Good piece Nick, milestone 50, well done, you poor chap. 😀
Bob McCarthy was a Testwood boy, in my big sister's class.
Good grief! 😲

sidsaint added 10:41 - Jan 15
Congratulations Nick. Nice to read your memories of the Dell. Have also seen us pick up points away to Wolves so lets hope you can celebrate in style.

SouthSeaSaint added 10:45 - Jan 15
Well done Nick, keep it up.

One of my first games at The Dell was a FA Youth Cup Semi Final (1st Leg) v Man Utd in 1956 .
. Saints had Terry Paine & John Sydenham on the wings whereas Man Utd had quite a few of the team that were involved in the Munich air disaster 2 years later, including the colossus that was Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton etc. We lost 5-2 but actually beat them 1-0 in the second leg at Old Trafford.
I remember Man Utd were wearing new shiny kit whereas our youngsters were turned out in hand me down shirts etc which looked washed out in comparison.
I had been to earlier games as we lived for a while in Milton Road but your reference to Man Utd brought back memories of the Youth team game.

Chesham_Saint added 10:58 - Jan 15
Great report Nick. I’m a bit behind you but with many similar memories, albeit I was a neutral when I first went in the 70s. Moving to a school in PortsMouth soon changed that and my personal very costly (in terms of cash AND emotion!) addiction began. Hope you enjoy today!

underweststand added 12:26 - Jan 15
Yes congratulations NIck. As you know there are a few of us on here who might claim even longer, BUT I'm sure no-one would argue that, as in my book the dedication of long-term fans who have several decades under their belt counts for a lot more than those "fair -weather" fans who call for the managers head - every time we get a bad result.

There has been a lot for you to mull over in that time. That tragic relegation season that Lawrie Mac took over that saw us drop from 6th place into the drop zone, only to see us win the FA Cup a few years later. IMHO the seasons that followed were great - even if we didn't win anything more, but in the late 70's the (3rd time club partnership) of Boyer and Mac Dougall gave me so much joy warching a couple of goalscorers who really did seem to score goals for fun. Most of we "oldies" would probably say that the early 80's " McMenemy years " gave us some of best football in generations.
It's good to have memories of those times and thankfully we now have a younger generation who follow Saints so enthusiastically and have new heroes to cheer.
I join with the others (above) in thanking you for your dedication in continuing this site
-even if all don't necessarily agree with all of you opinions - this site demands compulsive attendance. Well done.


DellBoyWally added 12:42 - Jan 15
Always the new boys telling us oldies the facts!!
I'm nearer SouthSea's start, 62 years back. I have a pic from 66 helping carry Terry Paine round the Dell pitch celebrating promo to Division 1. Wearing jacket, tie and shorts! Fashion too has changed not just football!
My first game wasn't a Saints match. Was Everton v Chelsea at Goodison Park in 1954 - my grandfather was Evertonian. At half time they threw toffees into the stands. At the Dell the crowd threw coins for the Albion Band!! Coins whizzing past ones ears from the back of the stands! Toffees are softer!

ThereIn76 added 13:17 - Jan 15
Congratulation Nick! Hope we can celebrate with 3 points today. My half-century isn't that far off now. It's quite a ride supporting Saints but I think over the last 50 years we've had it better than a whole lot of clubs.

PaleRider added 15:47 - Jan 15
Thank you Nick - excellent article and comments! First game - 0-0 versus Wham, just before Christmas 72 (or 73 - the memories going!)

SaintPaulVW added 18:05 - Jan 15
Congratulations Nick. Onto the next 50!

davidpeach added 22:25 - Jan 15
I'm another 50 year long sufferer (Boxing Day 1969), grateful for this site and wanting to thank you for all you do on here Nick.

KilkennySaint added 04:24 - Jan 16

KilkennySaint added 04:28 - Jan 16
Congratulations, Keep up the good work,

ItchenNorth added 09:53 - Jan 16
The Dell was just the best ground. Maybe younger fans don't want to hear it and why would they really, if St Marys has been their only Saints home. But, the terraces at The Dell, be it on the Archers Road, the Milton Road Upper or Lower stands, or under the East Stand (which was my spot for many years); hold my greatest emotional memories.

St Marys has been good though. When the fans all sing 'Oh When The Saints', the sound really booms out across the stadium. Although St Marys is lacking in any unique architectural features, the fans in the Northam Stand and Itchen North maintain a fight for the Saints atmosphere and support, which is great. I love being a Season Ticket holder in the Itchen North. You can look the away end right in the eye and give it some back.

For me, The Dell and Saints is about many things. But the Matt Le Tiss years will be the most memorable time for me.

My hope for my next 40 years, is a trophy or two in the cups !

TeamCortese added 10:40 - Jan 16
Congratulations Nick! This is an excellent milestone. Thank you for creating this fanzine and being such a loyal fan through thick and thin.

Whatsforpud added 11:19 - Jan 16
Well done Nick, from a fan that just attends home matches now. I cant recall what my first match at the dell was - I suspect my father took me to a reserve game as a starter. When I look back at the players in each season to find the ones I recognise, it seems my first season was 1952. This was even pre-Terry Paine. Great player - with the ball at his feet, he could centre the ball with either feet with ease. I just missed out on Charlie Wayman who my dad often would mention. In those early days there were no subs allowed, and if the first team was at home, the reserves would play away, while the youth team played elsewhere. I assume each squad had a standby reserve.

SaintNick added 09:48 - Jan 17
Thanks very much for your good wishes, but thanks very much for your recollections from the past about your own first games etc, I was hoping that a few people would look back in their own memories

SaintNick added 09:48 - Jan 17
Thanks very much for your good wishes, but thanks very much for your recollections from the past about your own first games etc, I was hoping that a few people would look back in their own memories

redwight added 12:22 - Jan 17
I'm a bit late onto this one, but would like to add my own congratulations, and thanks, Nick. My own 50th is not so far away now. Away to Chelsea november '73, with first at home being september '74 v Pompey. Ron Davies had recently signed for them. Found myself in a sea of Pompey fans on the left end of the Milton facing the pitch. To this day I have no idea why they were there in such numbers. Not the best introduction to The Dell, but we won the game. Maybe in the close season you might think of running a 'most memorable games' thread.

zonehead added 14:24 - Jan 17
Congratulations Nick, my first ever match was Fratton Park cos my mates were skates against Man City a pre season friendly 0-2 the great Colin Bell next week I went to the Dell again against Man City (2-3) but the atmosphere the smoke, the smell of beer (I was 14) meant I couldn’t go back to Fratton and it was Saints for ever.

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