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April 2021

Southampton vs Arsenal: a view from the opposition terraces


I am a university lecturer and occasionally I get invited to give research papers (talks) at other institutions. So when Solent University asked me to come and talk to their criminology and law society (about a strange murder case in 1791) on Wednesday last I looked at my calendar and saw that I now had an opportunity to take Arsenal’s away trip to St. Mary’s.

While I’m a ST holder at the Emirates I’ve never seen Arsenal away from home (unless you count going to Wembley in 1980 or Barnet a few years ago). This means I have no away credits and thus had seemingly little chance of getting a ticket. However, a member of the politics staff at Solent (Mark) is a big Saints fan and he managed to get me one. So, with my Arsenal shirt carefully hidden beneath several layers of neutral clothing I set off from my hotel to meet Mark in a town centre bar called Goblets.

Mark and a mate introduced themselves, I handed over £40 and after a few bevvies we headed off to join the throng making its way towards the stadium. On the way we swapped banter about the game and it was clear the two of them, while hoping for a win, were concerned we might turn them over; a draw would be good result they reckoned.

St. Mary’s is a modern stadium but it’s in the heart of what seems to be a big industrial estate and we rushed along down back streets and under subways before heading up and over a foot bridge to emerge near the ground. Mark pointed me in the direction of my turnstile and I was on my own.

The first thing that surprised me was the lack of programme sellers both outside and inside the stadium. I couldn’t find one anywhere whereas at the Ems you almost fall over them. In fact the only person selling anything like that was a bloke flogging the Gooner!

I soon found my seat, up in the stands overlooking the corner flag – Mark had done well as I had a great view. St. Mary’s is neat and tidy but a bit ordinary really (sorry Saints fans!) but this is more than made up for by the atmosphere. The singing from both sets of fans was great and LOUD. But this was at the other end, around me it was mostly mumbling and the occasional shout (at the ref or in encouragement), there was no singing and everybody was sat down.

The second noticeable thing was how late many home fans were in arriving (some 15-20 minutes late!) and how quick they were to leave. Apparently transport links are really poor to and from the ground so people need to get away early, especially on mid-week games. But I’d be interested to hear any Saints fans’ opinions on this.

I’ve read some Arsenal reviews of this game and I have to say they are bit generous to us. I thought the home team were excellent and really went at us from the off. Maybe we were delayed and that affected the team or we were a little complacent, I don’t know but our passing was awful. When they took the lead (at the other end from me) I couldn’t see if it was a foul or not and suddenly I was surrounded by cheering locals.

And I didn’t know what to do. It was most odd. I couldn’t shout or cheer or even clap a goal against my team but everyone around me was. Luckily they didn’t seem to notice. It was very strange trying to keep quiet, not cheer, not to encourage the lads. Not that there was much to cheer in the first half anyway!

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I listened to the folks around me as the half unfolded. They grumbled about the ref (just like we do); they moaned when one of their players gave the ball way or a pass went astray (just like we do); they demanded yellow cards every time one of their was felled by one of ours (just like we do). Basically I realised Saints fans are just like me: they love their team, have tunnel vision and are completely biased and irrational.

Second half I nearly gave myself away. When Oli equalised I almost leapt out of my seat (no one else moved). When Santi made it 1-2 I had to stifle a cheer (hopefully it sounded like a cry of pain). I was reminded of a Jasper Carrot sketch in which Birmingham City take the lead at Old Trafford and his mate goes berserk. Again, I think I got away with it.

Then Southampton scored – the effervescent Lallana getting (it has to be said) a well-deserved equaliser. The support around me went mad and I had to stand up and politely applaud (sorry fellow Gooners!). The home fans sang “Adam Lallana, he’s off to Brazil” which was immediately (and amusingly) countered by “Adam Lallana, he’s off to Man U” by the travelling hordes from north London.

The game was good – end to end and we resisted their late pressure and had our own chances. The locals seemed to have it in for Sagna a bit and were delighted when Flamini saw red (as we would have been had he done that in a Saints’ shirt). A draw was a good result for us (and me) on the night even if the performance (first half at least) was poor. And the locals were generally happy; they know their level here and a point against the Arsenal is a good point.

This is a talented Southampton side and at home I was very impressed by them. Let’s hope they can take some points from those around us as well. More importantly let’s hope they can hang on to the likes of Lallana, Shaw (who was brilliant) and Rodriquez because next year they will all be better.

I got lost on the way back to the hotel but several locals helped me out and I never really felt in any danger. St. Mary’s is a friendly place and worth a visit. Next time I might  make sure I’m with the excellent travelling support though – they really were something to behold. Noisy, passionate, witty and in large numbers; which made me very proud to be a Gooner despite the result itself.




14 comments to Southampton vs Arsenal: a view from the opposition terraces

  • rob peters

    Enjoyed reading this! Always a good astmosphere at st marys ! And you could have sat in a better place maybe! Also some other pubs offer a great atmosphere! Having been to most grounds in the last 2 years I think st marys is one of the best for noise ! Some big club grounds only wake up if playing a big game ! I also loved the quick reply from sai ts fans singing Robin van Persie he went to Man U !!! I was brought up an Arsenal fan as from that area , but have been in the southampton area for 25 years now and enjoying it!!! Thanks again , Rob

  • ken

    Hi Blacksheep. Sounds like you may have been sat near me, lots of old blokes with season tickets, cos we scored twice I had to stand up twice my knees aren’t what they used to be! Glad you enjoyed your trip to sunny southampton ( not this time eh?). Yes our stadium is a bit bland, pretty sure that’s all we couldn’t afford at the time. I quite liked visiting your place until you scored a few last year. What a great game tuesday, both sides at times showed how good they can pass the ball. Thought a draw was a fair result although when Arsenal were down to 10 we could have nicked it late on. Ken.

  • One thing that must be said about the St Mary’s is how much better it is than what went before.

    I visited the Dell on a number of occasions, and it really seemed to have a 19th century quality about it. I think that the last game I must have seen there was a 4-2 defeat in which a certain Southampton player who subsequently rose to fame scored his first ever goals for the club.


  • Ian Jenkinson

    Nice article Blacksheep! I really enjoy reading pieces on match day experiences. The atmosphere sounded great and as usual the Arsenal fans were loud and clear! Thanks for putting this up.

    I had a similar experience a few seasons back when i went to Anfield to watch Liverpool v Arsenal with my mates who are all Liverpool fans (i escaped that particular torture!). I was in the second row in the Kop when we equalised at the other end in the last minute after Pepe Reina kindly pushed the ball into his own net. It took every sinew in me not to jump up and celebrate, how i did it i will never know!!

    I have a few recordings from that day on Youtube. Type “There’s a Gooner In The Kop” in to Youtube!

    Thanks again Blacksheep!

  • Kate Horne

    Very good summary! The traffic was horrendous on Tuesday night coming in from the West and all the away support is fed into the city along the same road. What with the road improvement works, Ikea open late and people leaving work it can be a nightmare getting to the match. On a Saturday it is as well to find out how many cruise ships are in as all those passengers also come and go along that same road! As for leaving early, we are blighted by fans who do this even when the match is balanced on a knife edge, can’t express how annoying it is to those of us who want to watch to the end!

    As for the programme sellers, Cortese got rid of the old blokes who yelled so you knew where to find them, and replaced them with WAG-a-likes who are harder to find. I suspect we ran out of programmes though, sorry you missed that as they are excellent.

    I thought your team were caught out by our quick start and the lack of time we allow the opposition to have on the ball, and took a while to recover. Much better start to the second half where we witnessed your quality, but that faded and we could have won if we had taken our chances, but we are a young team and will learn! Hope the lecture went well.

  • Mike G

    Hi Blacksheep, about your comment regards late arrivals and early departures. The traffic was unusually heavy that evening (your team coach was caught in it) and according to one of the stewards they had considered delaying kick off. Many fans travel from the Isle of Wight and across to Hythe by ferry, and often have a rush at the end of the game to make it. Thought it was a cracking game, I was so wrapped up in it that I was shocked when the fourth official signalled the added time -was it really full time? Mike

  • marcus

    Sport, Tyranny (gagging law), Police State (water canons)…where does it end?

  • jambug

    Thanks for the insight into your day. Very enjoyable read.

    Brought back some memories, and contrasts. It all sounds very civilised !

    Back in the day when I could get to matches I always enjoyed away days so much. Such camaraderie.

    Back then I reckon it would of been a different experience to what is now, civilised is not a word that springs to mind, what with all the fighting that went on then. It was tribal, a real feeling of ‘into the breach’ and all that.

    Not anything to be particularly proud about but the buzz of expectation and excitement, often mixed with a blend of fear and dread caused the adrenalin to flow to unbelievable levels. It was intoxicating.

    Then the match kicked of and it was 90 minutes of baiting the opposing fans. The football was secondary. Which to be honest wasn’t a bad thing given some of the fare on offer back then.

    Having been to the Ems a few times, when life permits, I can categorically say that the experience, as great as it is, is a million miles from my day. I think it sounds very much as if the away day experience, as good as that is, is also a million miles away from the days I travelled the length and breadth.

    Anyway I’m glad you had an enjoyable day, and civilised or not you’ve stirred in me the urge to take my good lady on her first away day.

    Now, when are we at the dump up the road ?

  • blacksheep63

    19th century eh Tony? Don’t tell José!

    Thanks to the Saints fans (Ken and Kate) for some clarification. I should have added that when the Ox came on in the second half he got a very warm welcome from the locals/ One dad behind me explained this to his son: “he used to play for us son, but then he did a ‘Judas’ and signed for Arsenal”. Given that he was clapping as loudly as everyone around him I thought this was quite funny 🙂

  • nicky

    Would have liked a section devoted to the catering…..a much more interesting subject these days, compared to the football.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @Blacksheep 63 – Nice article , and those Saints fans seem to be such fine folk . Unlike those AAAAs who come on here and ….!

  • bob

    If you really want to encourage that feature hereabouts, then how about a catering section that’s tailored to different fans’ budgets? From Billionaire’s row absentees to pub folk who can’t afford the price of admission? Or is there a price of admission to the section you might fancy (unless there’s a tongue in cheek to it all)? 🙂

  • nicky

    I’d like to see (as a side issue)reports on (say)a day in the players’ kitchen at Colney. Culinary delights at the Emirates. Food served to the team after away games.
    Stuff like that…..

  • Va Cong

    Frimpong sent off. He’s hot head and no discipline was why we sold him then?