Paul Allison
  southampton fc southampton fc
  I moved to Southampton in January 1987, at the tender age of 11 and and one-quarter, and less than a month later I found myself in the Upper East Stand at The Dell, at only my third ever football match (the first two had been Barcelona and Barcelona Reserves, notwithstanding Mallorcan league football as a child). The opponents were Coventry City, who were put to the sword by a Glenn Cockerill double for a 2-0 win. We were sat in the very back row, and I could only just see the far touchline for the overhang of the stand roof. At the end of the game, my father picked up a discarded bar scarf and gave it to me. I was to have that scarf for another 2 years.

My affection for the Saints quickly grew, and we moved to the Lower West benches (between the dug-out and the diagonally-sloping West terracing) and then the Milton Road end (second last gangway towards the East Stand, just behind the second barrier up). This lasted until I was 15, when a massive family row before a home league Cup game with Nottingham Forest marked a sea change in footballing experience. That night, my then girlfriend took my fathers place, and I was only ever to attend a few more matches with my dad.

After splitting up with Shira, I moved towards the back of the Milton (the left side) with the rest of the Netley Boys, and that’s where I stayed until the death of the Milton. A season of getting seats where we could (mostly the bottom rows of the Archers) followed, until we encountered real problems getting away tickets. Four of us took the plunge: Me, the Wee Man, Rich, and the Wee Man’s wee brother Deano (he was 11, so the Wee Man bought his seat) – as Child season tickets were unavailable in the Archers, we went for the nearest we could – Lower West Stand, level with the penalty spot (Section G, Row 4, Seats 163-166). The first game was the legendary Newcastle midweek match – 1-0 down with 5 minutes to go, then 3-1 to Saints at the final whistle. It was also the night after my, by then, “love of my life”, happened to have arrived back from 10 weeks on a kibbutz.

There then followed seven heady seasons of highs and lows, usually seen through an alcoholic haze, and we saw several sets of fans pass through the seats in front (Michael Fish, the fit blond and redheaded girls) until a family finally settled there. It didn’t take long to offend them (sample conversation: “If you don’t like, why don’t you f*ck off down the family centre?”), however in the face of adversity we actually formed quite a strong bond with them, particularly the youngest daughter, Fern.

Come the end of The Dell – the end of an era. How lucky we were to be there at that poetically perfect moment, when Le Tissier, on as a sub for the last 5 minutes of The Dell’s competitive career, swivelled and lashed home a left-foot volley from the edge of the area to give us a 3-2 win against Arsenal. If I’d known then what I know now, that would have been it – I’d probably never have watched Saints again (least not at home). The Dodd Testimonial and the farcical Brighton friendly followed, which was more of a DIY demolition day than a game of football, and then onto the lego-brick hell of St Mary’s.

I saw some amazing sights whilst supporting the Saints, many of which came courtesy of Matt Le Tissier. A brief list of my personal favourites would include:

  • Watching Saints beat soon-to-be FA Cup winners Coventry 2-0 in my first ever game
  • Beating then-champions Liverpool 4-1 (in the '80s)
  • A hat-trick of home-wins against Man Utd (3-1 - the "grey shirts" game, 6-3 and 1-0)
  • Beating Newcastle 3-1 after being 1-0 down until the 85th minute (our first game as season ticket holders)
  • Successfully getting into Villa Park to complete my 100% season record
  • Watching Matty score goal #1 and #2 of the season against Newcastle
  • Successfully organising a sit-down protest against Branfoot (my name was on the back of the Echo!)
  • Watching Saints run out at Wembley (okay, it was just the Zenith Data Systems Trophy!)
  • The two games against Bolton in the FA Cup
  • Fulfilling two of my all-time ambitions - seeing Saints in the FA Cup Final and in Europe.
  • Watching Matty score the last-ever competitive goal at The Dell with a swing of his left boot against Arsenal

To find out more about how I felt about The Dell, read this rant

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