… is where the heart is, and the hearts of the faithful presently reside at St Mary’s Stadium.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers and, of course, sisters, and sundry other relations and extended family, have been living in interesting times since the move to Northam. One of the happier consequences of dropping into the Championship and League One is that we got to show St Mary’s off to the fans of so many clubs; up until the end of the 2012-13 season 78 had played competitive fixtures there. Just how long is it going to take the Emirates Stadium and the Etihad Stadium to accumulate a visitors book as thick as ours?
A new generation of Saints supporters has grown up since the move from The Dell, but there are old Dellites who insist we should never have left: “It was our fortress; it had character; it had a genuine atmosphere all of its own; it was a real football ground for real footballers and real fans …” and so on. It might be added that it was a stadium for those who didn’t mind missing half the action because of the poor sightlines. Still, we do miss it – and the pubs around Bedford Place and Freemantle are better than those within easy walking distance of St Mary’s.
Like The Dell, the County Cricket Ground is no more, we must travel to West End to support Hampshire CCC; and the Antelope Cricket Ground is now beyond the reach of memory. All that remains of that old home are two grainy photographs lifted from the pages of a 1912 edition of a publication called the Southampton and District Pictorial, which do not reproduce well enough to be displayed here (hence the picture of the pub across the road).
The Common remains, although it’s an age since park football or cricket was played there. However, take a daylight stroll across the Flats and you are more likely than not to encounter an informal game or two of football carried on between goals improvised from jumpers and jackets. Not much has changed in 128 years.