St Mary's Stadium

Ground No. 19
Visited - Sunday 9th March 2003
Result - Southampton 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - FA Cup
Attendance - 31,715

This trip had started off the previous week when queuing for tickets, which is a story in itself. I'd arrived at Molineux at 8am, and although I had expected to wait for quite a while, it eventually turned out to be for 6 hours. I was quite literally among the last to get served, when I'd arrived in the door of the ticket office, a steward shouted to someone else, ‘last 50, count them down’. Why they couldn’t have just counted down the line at 8am, to save people queuing for so long just to be turned away I don’t know, I guess that would just have been too simple!

So after waiting for that long, and the prospect of an exciting 6th round FA Cup match, against Premiership opposition needless to say this was a match I was going to be looking forward to.

You may think that after that wait the journey itself would just be a formality, but no, that was hoping too much! The train was due to leave Wolverhampton at 8:14am, on the Sunday morning, but after two cancellations and a further delay I didn’t arrive into Birmingham New St, until 10:10, a service which normally takes 15-20 minutes. Fortunately, I arrived just in time for the next train down to Bristol, where I changed for another one to Southampton, that part went off without too many problems.

Once in the city itself, due to the train delays there wasn’t much time to do anything, so I just walked around the town, although being a Sunday there wasn’t much to do, so before too long I decided to make my way up to the ground. It was an easy walk, well signposted, and doing the usual following the shirts method I arrived there without any problems. On the way there was a football memorabilia shop which I stopped off in, only a small place, but there was nothing in there to interest me, except an overpriced bundle of old Wolves programmes.

The ground itself from the outside looks OK, nothing spectacular, but quite nice. My main problem with it is its similarity to so many modern grounds. That continued when I got inside, I really have to echo the sentiments made by others that despite being very nice, its just rolled off the conveyor belt of similar looking stadiums, such as Leicester, Reading, Middlesborough, and to lesser extents Derby and Sunderland. To be honest that disappointed me a little, because I really couldn’t get excited about it. The facilities are as you would expect, first class, and the legroom in the seats was welcome after the recent visits to less spacious grounds such as Coventry, Preston and Sheffield Wednesday, but overall I would have liked to have seen more imagination put in by the designers.

As for the game, well, the less said the better. We came here, despite knowing that we were underdogs still expecting to have a good chance, but the team put in their worst performance for quite a while, they did try, I’ll give them that, but Southampton walked all over us, which was quite annoying. We were well beaten, that was the worst thing about the entire trip. Southampton ran out eventual 2-0 winners, and went on to play Watford in the Semi-Finals.

Outside the ground there was lots of trouble, and the further you went away from the stadium, the worst it apparently got. I'm not one to condone football violence, but sitting 5 seats away from the home fans I saw the abuse we got at first hand, and if you went outside on the street and did some of the same things that Southampton fans were doing then you would expect to get beaten up, OK that happens all over the country, but it doesn’t make it right. So without trying to justify it, then it was fairly inevitable, and something the police should have been prepared for. It may have been pretty much all Wolves doing the fighting outside, but if the Southampton fans goad other sets of supporters in the same way that they did to us, then I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens after every game.

The trip home wasn’t too bad, I had to stand up all the way back to Bristol, that just added to the misery, but, well you’ve got to just keep smiling haven't you? I think, well maybe not!

Overall it wasn’t a bad day, one I will probably go to again, but at £28 for a ticket it is rather pricey, and if you’re going there to marvel at a new ground, then you will probably end up a little disappointed.

Ground No. 19 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 13th September 2003
Result - Southampton 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - FA Barclaycard Premier League
Attendance - 31,711

I can’t say that I was particularly looking forward to this trip. Having been down to St Mary’s 6 months previously, in the FA Cup, only to endure a pretty miserable day as we lost 2-0, and after our early season form, I expected much the same again.

As usual, I went down on the train, and it was a straight forward journey, changing at Oxford, and arriving into Southampton with plenty of time to spare.

The last time we had played at St Mary’s, I'd walked from the town coming to the ground at the away end, this time I had ended up at the opposite end of the ground, having had a fairly picturesque view of Southampton on the way there, including walking past St Mary’s church, which presumably the ground, and the area is named after.

The ground, as most people will know is one of these modern bowl-shaped stadiums, without much to individualise it from other grounds of similar design. The facilities and view are superb, first class, its just a shame that the club couldn’t do anything to make it different to Leicester, Middlesbrough, Derby, etc. although I do think St Mary’s does have a little extra bit of class compared to those grounds, all of them look to have been done on the cheap, except for St Mary’s which they do seem to have spent money on.

The game was ok, however the scoreline from last seasons FA Cup quarter-final was repeated and we lost 2-0, the first goal to a very dubious penalty decision from Uriah Rennie, after Kevin Phillips was ‘tripped’ from Dennis Irwin’s challenge, despite on replays Irwin’s boot being about 2 feet away from Phillips, with the referee standing about 4 yards behind the incident and with a clear view of it, you really have to wonder at Mr Rennie’s integrity, never mind his competence. We couldn’t argue much with the second goal, scored by James Beattie, a nice lob of the keeper from the edge of the box.

The stewards were good, sorting out a bit of trouble behind us very well, and generally helpful other than that. What was kind of surprising to me was the atmosphere. Southampton fans aren’t noted for being especially vocal, but they were louder than most.

Getting away from the ground was easy, a short walk back to the station, without any problems. There had been a bit of trouble after the cup game, but there was no sign of that this time, with both sets of fans mixing freely and in good spirit.

Overall it was a good day out. Shame about the result, but other than that it all went to plan, and its one that I would have no problem with going to again, or recommending to anyone else.

Ground No. 19 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 6th August 2005
Result - Southampton 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca-Cola Championship
Attendance - 24,061

Despite having been to St Mary’s twice before, and being fairly underwhelmed on both occasions, I was actually quite looking forward to going back for a third time, and was happy to see it come up early on when the fixtures were announced.

Setting off for the long journey I was in a good mood. The first game back after pre-season is always one to look forward to, football was finally on the agenda again! As usual I’d chosen to catch the train, only having a quick change in Birmingham New St, before catching a connecting service onwards to Southampton. Despite the length, the journey went reasonably well, taking around 3 hours in total from leaving Wolverhampton, arriving on the south coast just after 11am.

Due to Sky TV, kick-off wasn’t until 5:15pm, but I had wanted to get to Southampton early, to try and find the site of The Dell. Unfortunately I’d never visited there, and from having seen pictures, really regretted that, as it really did look a great ground, full of character. On leaving the station, it wasn’t a long walk to the site, but once there, after walking around I couldn’t find anything to even suggest that there had been a football ground there at all. Where it once stood is a huge complex of flats, which blatantly stand out from the surrounding area, but I couldn’t see as much as a plaque, which was quite disappointing, as you would have hoped that somebody had left something to commemorate what was surely a significant piece of history for the city.

Having left the site of their former home, it was off for the fairly short walk to their Southampton’s new residence, the Friends Provident St Mary’s Stadium. The route down there was familiar after a while, and once outside the ground, there seemed to have been little, if any change since the first time I came here. I did ask at a gate to see if I could pop in to take some pictures, but due to the recent terrorist attacks in London, the stewards were resolute that security was at a high, and nobody was coming in, which sadly was quite understandable. With that, it was off round the exterior of the ground. The only part of it that really stands out is the entrance to the Itchen Stand, which is a large glass fronted structure that looks fairly impressive. The other three sides are all the same, with a metal and brickwork design, but despite being pretty standard fare for the modern bowl type grounds, as I’d remembered, they do look to be a bit better quality than say Leicester or Stoke, where costs have blatantly been kept to a minimum. On finishing taking pictures, and after popping into the club shop, I spent the next few hours in town and at the docks, trying to make time pass, before going back to the ground, and finally going in, about an hour before kick-off.

On finding my seat, I was directly behind the goal, and about halfway up, with a superb view of both the action and the rest of the ground. The one downside was that I was literally right next to the Southampton fans, only an empty seat and a few covered rows separated us, but the view more than made up for that.

Like with the outside, the inside of St Mary’s, despite being the exact same design as the Walkers Stadium, and not too dissimilar from Reading, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Derby, Darlington or Swansea (the list grows with each season!), it comes across in a better light. I cant really put my finger on it, but it is just somehow better than all of the other grounds mentioned, although that said, it really would benefit from having some individuality. Unlike the second part of the list, there really is nothing that stands out from the other parts of the ground, no second tiers, no player murals dangling from the roof, no fancy patterns in the seating, nothing, it really is a shame, and in leaving The Dell for St Mary’s, the club couldn’t have gone more from one extreme to the other, as said many, many times before, it’s a shame that its becoming more and more common in the modern game, and its something that clubs really ought to try and correct.

After getting more pictures of the inside, and meeting a few friends, the game got started. A frantic pace was set from the off, with both sides pressing, and only Niemi in the Southampton goal keeping Wolves from going ahead, with three good saves from Kennedy, Seol and Lescott. It wasn’t all one way though, and despite most of the chances going to the visitors, it was Southampton who seemed most likely to score, putting us under a lot of pressure. Undeterred by this though, we carried on attacking, and it was the woodwork that came to the hosts rescue just before half-time, when Cort thundered a header against the bar, but the first half ended with the scores even, from an exciting opening to the season.

The second half was much the same, with both sides pressuring each other. Niemi again was the Saints saviour, making a stunning save to deny Kenny Miller a certain goal, and keeping the scores still at 0-0. Dennis Wise had come on in the 50th minute, and unsurprisingly after that the game heated up. Referee Trevor Kettle had been waving cards around like confetti, and after a series of bad tackles from both sides, it was no surprise when a red was finally issued, with Claus Lundekvam earning himself an early bath. After that the game continued in the same fashion as before, with us having the most clear cut chances, but Southampton still piling the pressure on, anxious to get something in front of their own fans, and it almost paid off, with several chances where they really ought to have done better. Eventually, despite both sides doing so much attacking, the referee blew his whistle to indicate that it was full time, with both sides taking a point from the game.

Despite this being the lowest ever league attendance at St Mary’s (to date), the atmosphere really was superb. Perhaps it was sitting right next to the home fans that helped, but they really did seem loud, although we never really got going ourselves, but the home fans in the Northam Stand in particular, really did themselves proud, creating one of the louder atmospheres that I’ve heard in quite a while. I had initially been slightly worried, or at least cautious about being so close to the segregation, but thankfully there was no incidents, with the home fans choosing to concentrate on the game as opposed to us, which sadly cant be said for many clubs, ourselves included.

After leaving, there was a new segregation system outside that hadn’t been in place on my last two visits. Instead of turning left and going over the railway bridge, we had to go right, and stick to the roads to get back to the train station, but it didn’t take long to get back, and once on the train, it was a fairly straight forward journey back to Birmingham, before changing for a final train home, arriving back just after 11:30pm.

Overall it was quite a good day out, partly just to be at a competitive game again, but it was also good going back to Southampton, and getting in the routine of a matchday once more. Hopefully more of the trips this season will be as good as this one, although coming home with 2 extra points wouldn’t go amiss!

Rear of the Itchen Stand

Main Entrance to the Itchen Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the Chapel Stand

Rear of the Kingsland Stand

Rear of the Northam Stand

The Itchen Stand

The Chapel Stand

The Kingsland Stand

The Kingsland Stand

The Chapel Stand

The Itchen Stand

St Mary's Stadium Panoramic 1

St Mary's Stadium Panoramic 2

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