The discussion, playing, the opinion, your team, football leagues?
The tribal warfare it’s us against them.
Apart from when it’s everybody against them.
I’m getting on a bit and playing still is more important than I realised…
Last week I smacked one into the top corner from distance, a bouncing ball that sat up and said hit me - it was a sweet connection and it curled in perfectly with a kiss of the post.
Glossing over the previous 10 efforts that had hit surrounding lights, corner posts or spectators, that one moment when it all comes right and we look like Thierry Henry is special - and you cannot replace it with anything.
Play on boys and girls, play on as long as the knees and ankles (and shoulders) will let you.
I can still remember a few blinding passes I hit when I was about 12.
I’ve had an up and down relationship with football. I was never really any good at it, and what made it worse was my uncles, particularly the youngest one, were pretty decent. Also, precocious little nob that I was, didn’t see the point of using feet for something your hands could do much easier. I really didn’t get it.
By the time I’d hit senior school, a couple of things had changed. First, I actually started to play a bit. Most people know the drill. Something like 20 a side, no real formations, with people like me running around like pack animals. I’d also been to my first Saints game and watched my first World Cup finals. I saw the point then.
1990 was another huge year for me, the first time that football had ever affected my life for weeks on end. The World Cup Finals where we nearly did it, or at least the best go we’d had since '66. There was nothing else in my head while we were still in. Utter despair when we were knocked out in the semis.
1994 was another big year. The move to Liverpool really made me realise how much I supported Saints. It’s almost impossible to get by in that city without a knowledge of football. If you’re not into it, you’re weird.
One of my favourite ever moments was in 1996, watching the Euro game against the Dutch with my brothers. We weren’t really expected to progress, let alone tonk them like we did, and of course, surprisingly good results are one of the sheer joys of the game. That’s not my favourite thing about football though.
I like the way it brings people together. But pap! What about Southampton and Pompey? Liverpool and the Mancs? Don’t care. You stick those people in a bar together as strangers and football is going to be high on the list of icebreakers, even if it’s just a platform for piss-taking. That’s at the macro level and all. Widen the scope to the rest of the world, and what you’re really looking is something like a polythestic set of beliefs involving a pantheon of Gods.
Congregations flock to stadiums every weekend. Each team is the god of whatever people support it. Happily, there’s no requirement to destroy all other gods. Just give them a good drubbing in the derby. The game feels eternal, despite its relatively young age. Southampton feel like they’ve existed forever for me, and it is my expectation that barring a huge meteor or something. they (and everyone else) will exist forever. Devotees sing, and say irrational things that cannot possibly be true, except for in their own heads.
Do Southampton fans think we’re genuinely the greatest team the world has ever seen? Probably. That’s religion for you. Irrational belief trumping hard facts.
My favourite thing about football is its the one religion I reckon everybody could get on board with. Even intiniki, the atheist bitch!
For me it was it bit like porn, I’d rather be doing it than watching it! Sadly I havent been able to “do it” (football that is) for a number of years now so watching and talking about it is the next best thing. I was a lot comer (oo-er missus) to footy and didnt really start to get interested until we moved from London to the suburbs and had a grass football pitch at school rather than having to walk a couple of miles to play on red grit. My grand awakening came in 1966 at 12 when I saw my first Saints game, we were promoted and England won the World Cup. If you are going to start following football that is the way to do it. Of course it has been pretty much downhill ever since
In the dark days of Rupert Lowe I recall trying to make sense of what I actually supported, it certainly wasn’t him.
I decided that players come and go, few actually care, a very special few deserve genuine affection.
Managers come and go, even the ground had gone.
What was I left with?
The name, the club name.
I support an abstract concept - and long may it live on.
Over 40 odd years, it’s been my stress release, my ego booster, my ego deflator, my social circle, and the funding for my £40-a-visit physio’s summer home in Greece.
£40 is not bad. Mine normally charges £50 (I believe), £45 to fellow sailing club members and £40 and a pint in the club bar for a visit this week as he didn’t have any change…
Not sure why I like football, didn’t play organised footie when I was younger (just kickabouts), but making up for lost time now. I search out opportunities to play against slower players than me and that’s getting harder to do…
On the watching side got interested in 1966 with the world cup and dad’s excitement at Saints getting promoted to div 1 for the first time. 1976 is the reason I did so badly in my finals at Southampton University that year! I’m still probably going to go and wave to Hughie et al tomorrow, and The Cricketers is handily placed for that.
For me, it is the connection with my father.
When I was a kid, he had an important job, responsible for thousands of people. As a result, he worked long hours. He was gone before I got up for school in the morning, and mostly, didn’t get back until after I’d gone to bed at night. I tried not to take it personally. But my dad was never there.
Until the weekends, that was. This was when he would make it up to me for his weekly absences from my life. It started with trips to The Dell, but what I loved the most as I got a little older – was the away trips on the road. Spending the weekends away in far-flung parts of the country, the long car drives, just me and my dad, the long talks, the celebrating rare Saints away victories all the way home, the singing, even the miserable long drives home after the usual crushing defeats, were ‘bittersweet’ ones – as I was still with my dad, and we were sharing that sadness together.
He is responsible for the immense passion I feel for Southampton to this day, for instilling it into me on those long weekend journeys, and cultivating it over the years. It’s never really been about football itself for me. I enjoy playing, always have, but never really been overly bothered about watching anyone else playing the game, only Saints. Couldn’t really give too much of a fuck about watching Match of the Day, or Champions League nights in Europe on TV. When we were in League One, the Championship etc, I barely even looked at the Premier League table. Didn’t care. And why would I? My Saints weren’t playing in it, so I wasn’t really interested.
If Saints are playing in a competition, I care. If they’re not, doesn’t really mean a whole lot to me. It’s always been about supporting my home town (city) Club, and sharing that passion with my dad.
He’s in his seventies now, and not too well, so we don’t manage to travel the country together much these days. But still get down to St. Mary’s together when he’s feeling up to it, though I often now must make that short trip alone. But even then, I feel that I am ‘representing’ him there.
Essentially, it is about passion for Saints, and sharing a kind of almost ‘spiritual’ communion with my dad. A special connection and bond that has lasted a lifetime, and I hope, will last for some time yet to come.
I think there must be many of us who shared Saints with relatives, some who are no longer with us.
And that’s why I fully understood when I saw the TV shots of the guy in 2003 singing Abide With Me in Cardiff, tears streaming down his face.
Tomorrow will no doubt be emotional for a few as well when they remember what they were doing in 76 and who they shared it with.
And the simple fact that none of us are young anymore.
JS account shares a LOT of similarities with some of my footy experiences. My dad really drove it in the early days, although nowhere near as many trips that JS seems to have had with his old fella.
Almost exactly the same attitudes to non-Saints footy today, except I like to keep abreast of everything else on podcasts. It takes a rare non-Saints (or England back when good) to get me excited.
JS’ old man is 10 years older than mine, they done more miles together and I don’t enjoy playing football that much, but that’s more to do with being shit at it than anything else. That apart, I could have written most of that.
Given many of our other shared interests, I’m semi-seriously wondering whether JS is actually a future version of me, sent back within his own lifetime*, to wind himself up. He’s probably not given us all winning lottery numbers to stop a universe destroying paradox or something.
It’s what I’d do
Actually seriously, top stuff sir. This is what we like.
* Starting to regret watchin Quantum Leap
Just a few
A shared experience.
The one real link to home that can never be broken while I am alive
Pain & anguish interspersed with a moment of ecstascy every 10 years or so.
And, even going back to when I played, reminding me of the difference between an arrogant know it all cnut and a team player and why I should always stay away from the cnuts. (You know - you lay the ball off for a one-two, you are now unmarked clean through on goal and he does 14 step overs, goes back again to show he can do it again then blasts the ball 17 feet over the bar THEN says sorry, I stay away from them at every level
You’ve played with The RaleighBoy then, Phil?
I also remember missing a penalty for Boyatt Bombers under 11’s on Grantham Green in a six-a-side tournament semi-final.
It’s the only penalty I’ve missed in a competitive match.
Shit penalty it was. Should have scored the rebound too.
not me Bletch, I wouldn’t have said sorry.
Feel all those things to an extent too.
Some of my best Saints supporting days were when we had a small enclave of Sotonians in Liverpool at my second year of University. My best mate (sorry Fatso), Lee (some have met him) and Ste (loads have met him - used to drink at Farmhouse b4 games) were all living up in Liverpool during my second year. That was a lot of fun, especially the end of the season - going to Manchester to drink the tears of newly relegated City (we kept quiet about being Sotonian though).
Itchen North is fucking ace for the community. I’ve got schoolmates and family near me at most home games. and that’s not counting my bro, who stands next to me.
The one real link to home that can never be broken while I am alive
Completely agree. You’ve all seen me make shitloads of comparisons between Liverpool and Southampton, and in almost all cases, Liverpool comes out on top. Could never support either of their teams. Southampton was never up to date. It was the one non-negotiable clause in my transfer.
As much as a pain in the arse that the 500 mile round trip is, it’s shitloads more doable than your situation. As such, I get to do it far more frequently, which means I’m home in Southampton for at least 20 weekends a year. Now I’ll honestly admit that I can be a selfish, insular out of sight, out of mind bugger at times. I still make considerably more effort than others, but never enough to have anything more than an overview of what was going on down here.
We’re talking months, and sometimes several of them before I’d make my way back down. I’d have to get to know my youngest niece every time I visited. I’d be deluged with months worth of EastEnders Christmas Grade Family shit, often coming away with the impression that the whole place was going to explode the moment I hit the M3.
That doesn’t happen anymore. Great relationship with all the siblings, the nieces beeline it for me and fling their arms around my neck. They very much enjoy the knockoff version of WWE I do, which involves lifting them over my head and dropping them with speed and noise on a sofa.
People think you’re a fucking hero for doing the home games at that distance, but I tell them it’s no biggie, and I get to do a load of other shit such as see the family, etc. Football didn’t cause all of that, but it was the catalyst.
I just love the magic of football. Ok I love Saints but I just love football as well. The real life drama no matter at what level.
Man City title winner in the last minute, Liverpool v Arsenal with Davis scoring the late 2nd to win Arsenal the title. Saints of course coming back to win 3-2 against Liverpool. But it does not have to be at the top level I refereed a game where a team were 0-3 down in a cup semi final with 79 minutes on the clock only to win 4-3. To see the faces of both sets of players was just crazy.
A few seasons back the English premier league champions to be were a penalty away from beating Watford in the championship playoff semi final 2nd leg, in the 6th minute of injury time at Watford. They missed the penalty and went straight up the other end and scored. The sheer joy of the Watford fans must have been huge, but on the flip side Leicester fans gutted, a trip to Wembley gone in a few kicks of a ball.
Today I have been watching all the live scores with the ups and downs closing in and I love it. Shame for Workington Town who were 1-2 up at Salford City with 10 minutes left in the playoff final, only to lose 3-2. Sums up what I have just been saying.
It is real life drama at its best. I LOVE IT!!!
Here is that Watford v Leicester clip! What finish.
I like watching fit, young men in shorts getting sweaty.
My mate Helen used to go to the Milton Road end and sing “We love Timmy’s bottom” with her mate.
Isn’t even a Saints fan.