If you know me reasonably well, or have had at any time a footballing conversation of any length with me, you’ll know that the FA Cup is my favourite competition. I might even go as far to say it’s my favourite competition in world football. The ideas that the famous old cup has lost its magic simply aren’t true, but I must say it is teetering on destruction if the television companies continue to get their filthy hands on it.

With a Sunday afternoon of freedom after work, I was off again to enjoy a game in this great cup competition, this time with Weymouth fan James (He’s starting to feature heavily on this site…) at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium. St Mary’s is a weird one for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s right on my doorstep (sort of). Only 25 minutes or so away by train, it’s odd to think that I haven’t previously visited. I think the mix of more tempting offers in the local non-league scene have put me off, combined with some of the almost extortionate ticket prices in England’s top tier nowadays.

Secondly, and this is more of a minor confession, I’ve already been to St Mary’s. It’s like a half tick this one. My last visit came when I was just a kid, and I watched the South Coast side play out a drab 0-0 draw with Hull City back when they were playing in the Championship. Talk about memory lane, although I barely remember anything that happened, save my young ears being exposed to swearing for the first time on a school trip. Oh, how we laughed in the minibus on the way home. So, yes, you got me, but it was my first visit under this persona so I’m going to count it nonetheless. Try stopping me.outside

insideJust as my journey to Lymington yesterday afternoon had been uneventful, this one was almost as easy. 25 minutes on the train and I arrived at Southampton Central in one piece, before meeting up with James at the designated rendezvous and heading on with the throb of football fans towards the ground. St Mary’s is easy enough to find as it is, but if you honestly have no idea, do what we do and follow the crowd. Can’t go wrong there.

inside 2As we approached our seats in the Chapel stand, I began scouting for programme sellers. It’s become Trotter custom to get a programme from each game (where possible of course). To James’ dismay, the booth had ‘Matchday Magazines’ printed boldly across the top of the window. We approached cautiously, and paid the £3.50 anyway, for what is actually a very good read, even if it is on A4 paper. Southampton also gained points in the official merchandise department, as I was able to pick up a pin badge for £2, an excellent price at any level I’d argue.

I won’t bore you now with the history of Southampton FC, as I’m sure there’s plenty you can find elsewhere. Chances are, it’ll be far more accurate as well. I will tell you however that St Mary’s Stadium is located right next to Southampton waters, and certainly has the feel of a Premier League ground, despite their spell lower down the divisions in the Football League over recent years. James and I perched ourselves in the Chapel Stand opposite the travelling Ipswich fans (who by the way were brilliant today) and took in the surroundings in front of us. As pictures show, it’s a complete bowl seating just over 32,500 people according to estimates. Today’s game was a near enough sell out, but the atmosphere wouldn’t have told you that. I hate to say it, but the Southampton fans were comprehensively out sung by the travelling Tractor Boys. I don’t know if it’s because the Saints fans expected victory, or because they couldn’t be bothered, what with today being a Sunday, but it was a poor effort.inside 3

The match itself was a bit of an odd affair in truth. The first half started brightly, and at times had all the ingredients to make a classic cup tie, but that never unfolded. Darren Ambrose’s looping header within the first 20 minutes gave Ipswich some real hope of an upset, but those hopes were dashed after some calamity defending allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to poke home the equaliser some 15 minutes or so later. The first 45 minutes were played at a good pace, and it looked as though either side could run up the other end and score.

The second half on the other end was quite the opposite, with the visitors sitting deep and their hosts content to stroke the ball around between themselves in front of them. It’s true that Southampton had a far greater deal of the football, but you couldn’t say they were in any way dominating their opponents. I don’t think Dean Gerken had a save of note to make after the interval.

Full time score;

Southampton 1-1 Ipswich Town (Att: 31,201)
(Schneiderlin 33′) (Ambrose 19′)

inside 4

Unfortunately, Southampton lost more ‘Trotter Points’ as we left the ground. Through no fault of the football club, a young lad decided to stroll past us proudly displaying his AFC Totton/Southampton half-scarf. I have to admit, I was mortified. The thought of that scarf upsets me a little bit even now. One of Bashley’s rivals? How dare he. Any Totton fans reading this, don’t take it the wrong way, it’s just, you’re not Bashley. Sorry, we can’t all be that brilliant. (PS – take most, if not all, of those last couple of sentences with a pinch of salt, or two…).

The final problem fell to James. For the second football league ground on the trot (See what I did there), he ended up throwing at least £3.20 worth of half-decent grub in the bin. We’d found an outlet selling food after the game, and plumped on a cheeseburger each to fuel us for the short walk back to the station. Once again howver, James took dislike to his food and ended up slinging it into the nearest bin. (Refer to my Reading post if you have no idea what I’m on about). It’s becoming a common occurrence now, and the worst bit is, he doesn’t even check if I want to finish it. A right horrible human being he is.

So there it is then, St Mary’s Stadium, home of Southampton. My 31st ground since my travels began in January, and my 4th in the Premier League. It was good to finally get there and enjoy a game, but I don’t know if I’ll be returning in a hurry. £5 for a ticket at a Premier League club doesn’t come around as often as I’d perhaps like it to. God bless the FA Cup eh?

Cheers Southampton!