Memories of Southampton

Z�e Fail, Capital Canaries Before heading off to Southampton last Saturday, I got to thinking about my previous visits to this city on the south coast. I was confused with the one-way system when I caught the ferry to the Isle of Wight once.

Z�e Fail, Capital Canaries

Before heading off to Southampton last Saturday, I got to thinking about my previous visits to this city on the south coast.

I was confused with the one-way system when I caught the ferry to the Isle of Wight once. In my defence, there were road works and diversions, as I'm usually pretty good at reading a road map.

My first footballing visit to Southampton was on New Year's Day 1994. The season when we were still in the top flight of football; the season we entertained the likes of Bayern Munich, Vitesse Arnhem and Inter Milan; the season you could get a ticket in The Barclay on a Saturday at 11am (yes four hours before kick-off) and then sit anywhere you like; the season I became a Norwich fan.


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We'd driven down and parked in the front garden of a nursing home, making a donation to do so, as parking was pretty limited around The Dell. Loads of people had opened up their gardens for the footie fans - most generous. I wondered how the grass faired, only briefly though.

I recall The Dell as being a dark and dingy ground, with very limited facilities. That means only one ladies loo! For 3000 away fans, with City having a following of 19% female fans in this particular season, this was not good news at half-time!

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The floodlights came on quite late into the game, especially when you consider what time it gets dark in January. The guy I'd gone with had shouted out, 'Turn on the lights' really loud and they came on about 5 minutes later. Someone must have gone to the corner shop to get 50p for the meter.

We won and I think Chris Sutton scored the goal so a joyous journey back along the south coast home.

My next trip, nine years later, was to the recently built St Mary's - another standardised, soulless concrete stadium, though with improved facilities - for the fifth round of the FA Cup, which we lost. We went to a pub afterwards where the barmaids were topless in the upstairs bar; like I was interested! I remained downstairs, I hasten to add. As that's all I remember of the game, apart from two second half goals and Malky getting sent off, it can't have been too spectacular.

The next visit was for that 'I wish to forget I was there' performance when we lost 4-3. It had been an interesting journey down with the Caps. Some dodgy character was on the front page of The Sun (nothing unusual there) who bore a resemblance to one of our group. We'd got talking to a foreign student who'd decided I was married to another of the guys on the trip. Her misconception based on the fact that I was sitting next to him. If you only need to sit next to a man to be married to him, oh dear, how many is that then?

We'd struggled to find a pub as we had an under 16 with us and no pubs in the city centre allowed them in. Obviously they hadn't heard that Norwich was a family club. We joined up with another group of fellow City fans having the same difficulties and eventually found a pub that we could get in with children. It even did food!

The number of people we passed on the way back to the station who compounded our misery by asking us, 'So what was the score then?' when they clearly hadn't been at the game but had heard the result. Good news sure does travel fast.

Things came to a head when a teenage girl shouted at us, 'You're gonna get relegated now!' and our response, 'Well, you're coming with us.' How little did we know, especially as the Saints fans thought they'd done enough that day to avoid the drop.

A combination of finances and time of fixtures over the next couple of seasons prevented me from going again until last Saturday. The pubs had clearly rethought things through and children were allowed in a number of them; ironically we had none with us this time.

We had beer, footie on the television, good company (20 Caps on the trip) and were dry, what more did we want? Well, apart from three points of course, which wasn't to be as we now know.

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