Thursday, 9 April 2009
December 11, 1971, Southampton v West Ham
I was 12 years old and traveled up to Southampton on the train from Yeovil in Somerset with two friends. That fact in itself is a sign of how times have changed. I would never have dreamed of allowing my children to make that journey unaccompanied at 12 years old but, in those days, parents did not see it as a problem. The game was at the "old" Dell of course, an anachronism of a stadium in the middle of a residential area of Southampton, middle class homes on the approach and a couple of blocks of flats overlooking the compact ground. No squalid back to backs here, it was a poor man's ground in an altogether better class of area.
For those who remember the old stadium, we parked ourselves in the family enclosure, one of the concrete "chocolate boxes" at the Milton Road end of the ground. This afforded a great view of the stadium from a usefully elevated position. En route we had eaten at a narrow little cafe in the arcade of shops outside the station before getting into the ground a good two hours before kick-off. Time to digest every word and every image in the programme, dwelling over the pen pic profiles of the West Ham squad and to munch our way through chocolate provisions whilst discussing the threats in the Southampton team. Sadly that programme was lost many years ago when my mother decided to have a "tidy up" whilst I was away at University and the Southampton team is now a blur, but I remember it included a forty something Terry Paine and that old warhorse Ron Davies. Presumably Channon played too, the "star name" in the Southampton team at that time. Did Galbraith play? I think so. If any Southampton fans look in, would be great to know your team and to hear your memories of the game if you were one of the 20,506 in the stadium.
As for the West Ham team, well for Hammers fans of my age, the teamsheet is a roll call of immortals: Ferguson; McDowell; Lampard; Bonds; Taylor; Moore; Redknapp; Best; Hurst; Brooking; Pop Robson. I honestly could have trotted off that team without any reference to the record books - bar one. I do not remember Redknapp playing. In my memory, he had gone the season before but that just shows how the memory can play tricks on you! I was only 12 after all! The substitute was also interesting, one David Llewellyn who managed just 2 starts and four appearances as substitute before moving on to Peterborough. Anybody remember seeing him play? He came on for Brooking in this game, which might explain the bad mood of "Sir Trev" when I met him after the game!
The game was a remarkable affair and summed up the two teams perfectly. Goals from Bonds, Best and Brooking gave us a 3-0 lead and put me in dreamland. All three goals were knocked in at our end and I was well on my way to one of those rarest of things, actually seeing West Ham WIN in the flesh! I have tried to part the clouds of time to remember how those goals were scored but the best I can come up with are that Best scored with a header amidst claims that he had fouled the keeper and Brooking netted with a low shot that went into the bottom left hand corner of the goal. From my position I wasn't sure the ball had actually gone in and from memory it was a real grubber. But that may not be how it happened at all!
Then it all went wrong. Maybe they actually invented Viagra decades before it was released onto the market because somebody definitely slipped something into the geriatric Terry Paine's cup of tea at halftime. He came out playing like a man possessed and ripped Lampard apart. I think Davies scored a couple from Paine crosses but I can't confirm that - Davies might even have bagged a hat-trick. Again, Southampton fans might be able to fill in the gaps. What is not in any doubt, because the records show it, is that Southampton fought back and scored three times to ruin my day. The final score - 3-3! Only West Ham!
I suppose the game itself and the day out as a 12 years old would have been enough to stamp the day in my memory but it was what followed that fixed December 11, 1971 indelibly into my hard drive. We arrived at the station to catch our train home and there, on the platform, was the entire West Ham team! Moore, Hurst, Robson, Ferguson, Brooking et all, kipper ties, pink shirts, outlandish coats, stupid haircuts, the works! I was in dreamland, running around collecting autographs on that programme that my thoughtless mother was to consign to a rubbish bin.
Moore was great, all smiles. So were Bonds and Ferguson. Pop Robson looked like a clown in his comb over and ankle length checked coat but was more than happy to scribble his name on the programme, even asking me my name so he could personalise it. Hurst wasa bit aloof but signed his name without looking at the page. The only one who refused to sign the programme? Trevor Brooking. As I ran along the platform at his side asking him to scribble on that programme, Brooking studiously ignored me and such was my focus on one of my all time heroes, that I all so nearly ran into one of the pillars holding up the roof of the station. For years afterwards, I had a recurring nightmare of banging into pillar after pillar on that platform as Brooking ignored me.
This memory stands out for me. Do you have any you would like to share? If so, drop me a line and we can journey down your memory lane as well!