by Noel Draper
If, like me, you have lived in a few places around the country you will understand that occasionally you will have a soft spot for another team. Sometimes even a few. To me, Southampton is one of those teams. In the middle 70’s, much to the rest of the families’ horror, my Dad took a job in Hampshire. He had no quarms about it, he was doing it for the big wage they had agreed to pay him. Obviously it was hard for a 10 year old to make it back up to Manchester every other week for the match and due to this lack of ‘real’ football disillusionment set in.
Glory supporting is probably the real football fans pet hate. It was 1976, I was 10 and the local club were having a fantastic cup run. I’m sorry, truly I am, but for the next seven years I supported two clubs. Southampton were on a roll. They had made it to the semi final of the F.A Cup. Somehow my Dad managed to get tickets and off we went with the 20,000 other Saints fans to Stamford Bridge to see my second team trounce Crystal Palace 2-0. I say trounce but up until Gilchrist scored the first it had been quite tight. We were through. To the cup final. At Wembley. The journey home provided ample time to annoy my Dad so much that he promised to try and get final tickets. The sweetener of the deal was that it was against United. The hated team from just outside Manchester.
Over the next few years I turned into a real-ish supporter as McMenemy built a team capable of winning the league.
We went to the final, cheered on the Saints so hard and loud that we must of come across as real supporters and danced and laughed when the least likely looking footballer I’ve ever seen, Stokes, came up with the winner.
Over the next few years I turned into a real-ish supporter as McMenemy built a team capable of winning the league. Standing just left of the goal in the Milton Road end, myself and my brother were treated to an array of unbelievable talent. Alan Ball, Peter Shilton, Dave Watson, Mick Mills, Steve Moran, Steve Williams, Mick Channon, Charlie George and, to the shock of the footballing world seeing as he was the current European Footballer of the Year, Kevin Keegan all graced the tiny pitch at the Dell. Keegan even knocked me out with a shot and I was still happy. Golden times indeed.
When Man City came to town I was torn. My first love or my affair? First love won every time but I tried to not celebrate too much if City scored.
We moved back up north in the middle 80’s. My love affair ended as quickly as it had started and my old flame took me back with open arms. I still hold a small candle for my south coast lover but it has slowly diminished over the years. I look out for their scores of course, but my heart no longer skips a beat when I hear their name.
For a brief moment in time, I was proud to be a glory supporter.