Manchopper in….Southampton

Result: Southampton 1-1 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)

Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium (Sunday 12th May 2019, 3pm)

Att: 30,367

The final game week of the Premier League campaign saw my sights set for the majority of the season on a long trip down south to the coast what with Huddersfield’s likely relegation (of course since confirmed) making it quite a pretty likely concept that I’d be able to secure a ticket for the visit to St. Mary’s. This proved the case and after being dropped off early on Sunday morning in Manchester, I jumped on the CrossCountry service that would, hopefully, deliver me to Southampton in trouble-free style.

There was a slight moment of concern near Wolverhampton as we were held for a good 15 minutes due to “overrunning engineering works” though this proved to just negate the planned wait in Reading as it was and, in the end, it didn’t matter one bit and I arrived into a sunny Southampton at a tick after 1pm. After eventually getting my bearings I set off in the right direction to have a quick look along the front before returning towards the older part of the city for a few stops in the local pubs. Well that was the plan at least, but I did instead get lost in the shadow of a large, imposing cruise liner around the port/cinema area. A good start.

After a short while trying to figure out where I needed to head, I finally got to the old city walls and jogged up the seemingly somewhat famed “50 steps” (yes there are 50, I can confirm) before arriving at the Juniper Berry Hotel which wasn’t actually one I’d planned on stopping in – but looked far too interesting to miss out on. As such, I popped in for an Amstel with the first song coming on being an Oasis number, so they were clearly expecting my arrival….or not.

Arriving in Southampton

The Juniper Berry

Southampton is a unitary authority and major port city on the south coast of England and is the largest settlement within Hampshire. Situated on the northernmost edge of Southampton Water and the confluence of the Rivers Test and Itchen, whilst the Hamble joins more to the south of the urbanised area. Believed to have been inhabited since the stone age, the Romans later founded the fortress of Clausentum in 70 AD (situated at the current site of Bitterne Manor) and this grew to become a trading port and defensive outpost to the important centre of Winchester. The fort was abandoned in 410 AD before the Anglo-Saxons later began to form their own homes around the St. Mary’s area of Soton, with the settlement becoming known as Hamwic, Hamtun and then Hampton – from where Hampshire derives its name.

Following Viking assaults from 840 onwards, the area declined initially before it became fortified in the 10th century and eventually became the medieval beginnings of Southampton. The Norman conquest saw Southampton become a major transit place between the then capital of Winchester and Normandy, with a castle being added in the 12th century and buildings from this time still survive today. As the years went on, the port began to import large amounts of Normandy wines – in exchange for English wool and cloth – and a Franciscan friary was founded in 1233 with the monks implementing a water supply system in 1290 and later giving the town access to this too.

Southampton

Then, between 1327 and 1330, the people of Southampton petitioned King Edward II that a group of conspirators and rebels led by Thomas of Lancaster had entered the area and burned and stole ships and other vital goods. However, in implementing the King’s advisor Hugh de Despenser the Younger, some were imprisoned but later pardoned by Edward III and Queen Isabella.

Southampton was then sacked by French, Genoese and Monegasque forces in 1338, with these led by Charles Grimandi, who would use the plunder to form the principality of Monaco. As such, Edward III ordered walls to be built tighter around the town to stop invasion – but these weren’t much use in stopping the Black Death, which arrived in the country via the ports there. Prior to King Henry’s departure for the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the ringleaders of the ‘Southampton plot’ were tried in what is now the Red Lion pub and executed nearby. The walls also play host to the country’s first purpose-built artillery post and has housed a gaol, town’s gunner and but these walls were later rendered somewhat obsolete by Henry VIII’s strengthening of the defences around the Solent area.

One of the older buildings in Soton

Southampton became an important shipbuilding area for a time and this included the construction of Henry V’s warship, the HMS Grace Dieu, but this was rather short-lived and this, along with the friary, soon disappeared, though the latter’s ruins lasted until being washed away in the 1940’s. The pilgrim fathers set sail from the port in 1660 and the English Civil War brought conflict via the arrival of a Parliamentarian garrison in 1642 with the Royalists unable to take the town which later became a spa town in the 18th century and was also a major military embarkation point for the wars with France as well as the Crimean and Boer Wars. The Port of Southampton was formed in 1835 and this tied-in with a large Victorian-era expansion which also saw tramways and rail links with London added in 1840 – meaning Southampton gained the moniker “The Gateway to the Empire”.

Shipbuilding continued to be a strongpoint into the 20th century, with many warships being repaired throughout the numerous conflicts and also imfamously saw the RMS Titanic set off for New York, never to return. Despite the loss, Southampton became home to the Cunard liners as well as Imperial Airways’ Flying Boat fleet. It went on to become a hub of military embarkations in both World Wars with its importance as a goods handling area too making it a high priority target for the Luftwaffe, who regularly struck and took many lives. It is perhaps fitting that the Supermarine Spitfire would be designed here. Southampton gained city status in 1964 and later became a county borough within Hampshire in 1973.

Titanic

The Duke of Wellington

From there, I continued on just around the corner to the Titanic with the barman decked out in full waistcoat and shirt and was telling a couple of tourists about the tale of the bell and how they toll it on the anniversary of the 1912 disaster. It was all very interesting and the place highly friendly too – decked out as it is in an abundance of paraphernalia regarding the ship and what have you. Incidentally, I visited the home town of Captain Smith only a few weeks previously too – if you’re interested, here’s the blog from that.

Unsurprisingly, this was a Titanic Brewery stronghold, though I didn’t opt for one and instead went for a San Miguel (£4.10) before paying a visit to the old Duke of Wellington just a few doors away. With a Heineken in hand (£4.60), I plugged in my earphones for the start of the Spanish GP (with no TV’s in this place!) but this only lasted a short while as the information of an awful Räikkönen start immediately had me tuning out and turning to further drink. You can’t blame me! My next stop was planned to be one across the way from a park and a bit closer to the ground, but my interests were peaked by the Red Lion I just about spotted and upon entering, I was happy I had done so.

Red Lion

More Southampton Sights

Inside was full of all kinds of pieces relating to, seemingly royal, history…oh, and a budgie. Sadly, I didn’t have all that much time in here and so my perusing of the decorations and the intricate décor was somewhat limited and as soon as I had downed the last of my Grolsch (£4.10), I headed on out of the ground and followed the crowds who looked to know where they were headed. All went well too, until I actually got to the ground, whereupon I got lost looking for the away ticket office and then having the gates fail to work – though myself and a group of Terriers fans were eventually scanned manually and let through a gate. This slight delay did mean that my usual pre-match visit to the food bars would be delayed until the break, but it could have been worse!

St. Mary’s is a very decent ground in which to watch a game and the atmosphere between the two sets of supporters for this dead-rubber, end of season clash was good spirited. All stands are of the same size and all have a translucent rear as to allow as much natural light into the stadium as possible. The stands are all named too, with the East Stand – named the Itchen Stand – serving as the main stand and this stand plays host to the usual matchday facilities, boxes and dugouts. Opposite stands the Kingsland Stand with the two ends being named the Chapel and Northam Stands respectively – the latter giving a clue as to which compass point it is located at – with the visiting fans (and myself) being located in the this. That’s St. Mary’s in a nutshell and this is the story of the Saints of Southampton….

History Lesson:

Southampton Football Club was founded in 1885 as St, Mary’s Young Men’s Association and gain both their stadium name and nickname of “The Saints” from their Christian church beginnings. They played their early games on The Common, though games here were frequently interrupted by pedestrians exercising their “right to roam” and so more important matches were played on cricket grounds at Hampshire CCC on Northlands Road, or the Antelope Cricket Ground on St. Mary’s Road. The club later shortened their name to St. Mary’s F.C. in 1887 before becoming St. Mary’s Southampton in 1894, upon the club’s move into the Southern League. The club won the title here in 1897 and then became a limited company as Southampton Football Club.

They would complete a hat-trick of titles by 1899 and added a further three championships in the early part of the next century (1901, ’03 & ’04) and also reached a pair of FA Cup Finals during this period, going down to Bury and Sheffield United in the 1900 and 1902 finals respectively. During this period, Southampton moved to a newly built ground known as The Dell and despite the club’s early tenure here being rather tenuous via rent from the ground’s landlords, they later made the eventual purchase and set their long stay in stone.

Arriving at St. Mary’s

After WWI, the Saints joined the Football League in 1920, where they took a place in the newly formed Third Division’s Southern section a year later upon the regional divisional split. 1922 saw the club promoted to the Second Division, whereupon they would spend a little over three decades, featuring in two FA Cup semi-finals (1925 & ’27) – both ending in defeat – to Sheffield United and Arsenal.

WWII bomb damage would see Southampton ground-share with rivals Portsmouth for a while at Fratton Park, but they returned to the Dell and 1948 saw them just miss out on promotion to the First Division, finishing third, and the following two seasons also saw brushes with promotion end on the wrong side of things from a Southampton viewpoint. However, 1953 would see the club drop back to Division 3 (South), where they would remain through to 1960 and their eventual promotion back to Division 2. 1963 again saw the club vanquished in the FA Cup semis, this time at the hands of Manchester United, but the Saints would finally reach the top-flight in 1966 as Division 2 runners-up.

A spell of eight seasons in Division One followed, with Southampton recording 7th place finishes during this period, the first of which, in 1970, saw them qualify for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, where they bowed out in Round 3 to Newcastle United. The second 7th placing saw the club take part in the cup’s successor – the UEFA Cup – where they met, and bowed out to, Spanish club Athletic Bilbao in the first round. Despite becoming victims of the new three-down system in 1973, the club rebuilt in the Second Division and they defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley in 1976 to finally lift the FA Cup. This allowed Southampton access to the Cup Winners’ Cup the next season, where they reached Round 3 before being knocked out by Anderlecht.

SFC

1978 saw the Saints finish as runners-up to Bolton Wanderers in Division 2 and thus return to the First Division under the captaincy of Alan Ball. The next season had Southampton in the League Cup Final, which saw a 3-2 defeat to Nottingham Forest suffered and Southampton lead the way for a time in 1981-’82, but a poor end to the campaign saw them fade to 7th come the season’s end. Another FA Cup semi-final loss was suffered in 1984, but the league table read a bit more favourably, as the Saints ended up as Football League runners-up – their best ever finish. The next few years saw the likes of Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer break through the ranks and go on to make names for themselves in both club and international football.

Southampton became founder members of the Premier League in 1992 after finishing in a high enough position to ensure their place at the new top-table, though would go on to struggle for the most part and were regularly battling against relegation for the first decade of their initial stay. Avoiding the drop in 1996 on goal-difference alone and again in 1999 via a “Great Escape” after spending a fair time at the foot of the table (and, no, the Souness-era Ali Dia debacle will not be menti…oh). They bid farewell to The Dell in 2001, after over a century, with a 3-2 win over Arsenal secured by a late Le Tissier winner and went on to move into their new St. Mary’s Stadium home. The club reached the FA Cup Final in 2003, losing out to Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but 2004 saw the Saints relegated to the Championship on the final day of the season.

St. Mary’s from a different POV

After Harry Redknapp had swapped and returned to Fratton Park via an unsuccessful, brief stop at St. Mary’s, the 2006-’07 season saw another name introduced by the Saints who would go on to build a reputation for himself – Gareth Bale. However, the club weren’t immediately successful and indeed had to stave off relegation and administration in 2008 and both eventually came around the next year, with many assets needing to be sold off to keep the club afloat. Southampton were eventually bought by Markus Liebherr whose tenure was cut tragically short when he passed away in 2011. Starting their first tier-three season in over 50 years, the club won the Football League Trophy in 2010 – defeating Carlisle United 4-1 at Wembley – and were promoted from League One the next season as runners-up to Brighton & Hove Albion, before going straight through the Championship at the first attempt, finishing runners-up to Reading.

Their return to the Premier League had Southampton cementing their place back in the top-flight as regular mid-table finishers. During their second season, Sadio Mané recorded the fastest ever Prem hat-trick in netting all three goals within just 176 seconds and the club finished 7th, qualifying for the 2015-’16 Europa League in doing so, where they defeated Vitesse Arnhem before going out to FC Midtjylland in the play-off. They repeated the feat the following season, but this time via a best ever Premier League placing of 6th, missed out the qualifying stages and entered at the group stage but were eliminated. They also suffered disappointment in the EFL Cup Final when they were bested by Manchester United at Wembley. Current boss Ralph Hassenhüttl took the hot-seat mid-season after the dismissal of Mark Hughes and he, as with his predecessor, has guided Saints to safety come season’s end.

The game began rather quietly, with only Karlan Grant’s early effort going anywhere close to testing either ‘keeper – Saints’ stopper Angus Gunn being comfortably equal to his shot from a tight angle. Shane Long and Danny Ings both saw shots fly off-target as the hosts began to take control of the half but, in truth, the game was pretty poor and many of the support were making their own fun in the sun – especially in the corner of the ground where we were located.

Match Action

Match Action

After Grant and Juninho Bacuna had seen shots saved and fly over respectively for Huddersfield, the hosts eventually opened the scoring five minutes or so before half-time, which their overall dominance on the game had suggested was on the cards. A fine through ball by Ings released Nathan Redmond – who’d looked dangerous throughout the half – and the winger cut inside prior to firing high into the top corner, giving Terriers keeper Joel Coleman no chance.

That was that for the first-half action and a quick on the whistle visit down into the concourse was on the cards. It was a good job I had done so when I did too, as I was just in time to grab one of the few hot dogs that were all that was left of the culinary delights on offer in the away end by the break. To be fair, it wasn’t bad and was bloody hot to handle too! Anyway, back up to the seats I headed for the half-time entertainment which consisted of an interview way down in the corner at the far end of the pitch by former Saints player Franny Benali and his daughter, presenter Kenzie, who was doing the interview about his very decent “IronFran” charitable efforts that I certainly wouldn’t envy even attempting! Fair play and very much worthy of the applause from all sections of the crowd.

Half-time ended shortly afterwards and the match was back underway and despite Southampton immediately going close through James Ward-Prowse’s drive that forced a fine stop out of Coleman, it didn’t take long for the visitors to grab the equaliser, after a horror moment for Angus Gunn. The Saints keeper received a back-pass under next to no pressure, but when faced down by an optimistic Alex Pritchard charge, allowed the ball to escape his control and Pritchard needed no second invitation to pounce upon the loose ball and roll it into the unguarded net. One-a-piece and the visiting fans were in raptures – it was only their 22nd goal of the season after all!

Match Action

Match Action

Unfortunately, rather than open the game up into a free-flowing, winner-take-all contest which may have happened, it instead became a pretty turgid and, to be honest, boring watch with very, very little occurring to get pulses racing. Bar Pritchard seeing a shot from range evade the target and Yan Valery heading straight at Coleman down the other end, it looked as though it had petered out into a fair draw….that is until stoppage time….and a pitch invader who managed to get himself into the net. Good effort and the common “You Fat Bastard” chants were seemingly much welcomed!

Ninety-three minutes were on the clock when substitute Charlie Austin was given a great sight of goal, courtesy of a fine Redmond pass, but his shot went agonisingly wide of the upright from his viewpoint….and I guess from the Huddersfield POV too, only for differing reasons! Full-time, 1-1, and the Terriers Premier League experience was officially at an end. I just wish I knew about the free shirts, mine had gone walkabout before my arrival!!

Heading back to town

Railways and buildings.

The Old Vestry

Post-match, I undertook the walk back towards the city centre and the train station, though I had slightly underestimated the length and time it would take to get there and so just had time for a single pint prior to jumping back on the service for the long trip up north once more. I seemingly chose well for this though, with this final bar(though actually more of a restaurant), the Old Vestry, being in an old, converted church, that still maintains the look and feel of its former reason of use. I entered just as a couple were being turned away from the fully-booked restaurant and with no issues at the bar, I settled into a final pint of Beck’s (£4.60) before returning across the way just in time for the train back.

No issues were experienced from thereon in and I was back in Manchester in time for the last train connection back home too which was a pleasant bonus to have in rounding off my long-distance ventures for this season. As a whole, I had very much enjoyed my visit to Southampton, despite it being oh, so brief. The pubs I squeezed in were enjoyable and seemed the more interesting around whilst the ground was good to watch a game of football in, even if the game was a typical last day affair. Everything else was fine too and the programme served a fine foil to get me through the first hour of the journey back. So, the last game of the season sees a winner takes all promotion game (well, that was what it’s supposed to be) in the Cheshire League – Broadheath Central vs Blacon Youth. You’ve gotta love it!!

RATINGS:

Game: 4

Ground: 8

Programme: 7

Food: 5

Value For Money: 7