I make no apologies. I am not a happy clapper, I wear no colours, I will not sit down, I swear, I drink, I chant. But let me be clear though; while I’m not exactly a prawn-sandwich type, I’m not a hooligan either. I do nothing illegal, all I do is support my team and try to have a good day out with my mates.
The day starts as away days normally do, early. I stop on the way to the station only to pick up a pack of Strongbow’s to keep me hydrated on the 3 hour journey to Southampton.
At the station we meet up with everyone else, it’s a good turnout of 16 or so. We’re soon settling down in our own carriage and the beers and banter start flowing. Train arrives at Southampton and we all pile off. As we do the chant “RED ARMY! RED ARMY!” echoes around the station. We have arrived and we make sure everyone knows who we are. A few disproving looks from some of the people on the platform but we are only having a laugh – so why the stares?
We head away from the station to the pub, what a hole! As always the fresh air means everyone needs a p#ss the minute they walk through the pub door so it’s a mad dash to the toilet.
We secure a corner of the pub and the flag is up. A few songs start; quiet at first, but as the beers and shots are smashed the volume increases. Soon we are raising the roof of the pub with anti-Oxford songs “… Joey Beauchamp’s illegitimate…”. The bar staff are looking a little nervous and have called the police, but they are quite happy to carry on selling us beer. The police are soon in the pub with their video cameras out and filming us. Why they need to film us standing in a pub, drinking and singing is anyone’s guess but it’s something you have to get used to. It seems a male football fan, who’s had a drink and is dressed in casual clothes has no rights. We are told to finish our drinks as we were going to be escorted to another pub. Out of the pub we are greeted by 10 or so police and a riot van who precede to frog match us to Yates in the middle of Southampton. More songs and more stares from some bewildered Saturday shoppers. What must they think seeing a group of chaps being marched around town by the police? Still, it’s all part of the fun!
Yates is rammed with Town fans and the party continues with more songs and more beer. Really good atmosphere and everyone is feeling good. The copious amount of cider might have something to do with that. The heavens open outside and we all enjoy watching the coppers who are guarding the pub get a good soaking. I realise that it’s getting on a bit and it’s 2:30 and I still haven’t got a ticket so it’s off to the ground. Some Saints fans don’t take too kindly to our singing as we walk amongst them to the ground which makes the walk a bit interesting. I love walking through the underpasses as a big group, the noise is amazing and by now I’m buzzing!
Good atmosphere inside St Marys, it’s a good ground. The game kicks off to a wall of noise from the away end and a whimper from the home end. The atmosphere is good all through the first half and to be fair to the stewards they leave us to stand, sing and jump around as much as we like. One of the group is so p#ssed he falls head first down the stand over the seats. Still he jumps up and belts out a Swindon song, so we assume he must be ok.
As we go down for half-time pies and pints, two of the group are manhandled out of the ground by the stewards. No reason is given and when asked why, we are told that if we don’t walk away we’ll be following them out. Stewards just seem to be paid bullies who cause more trouble than they prevent. Police wade in and basically tell everyone to f#ck off.
The match is cr#p, no wonder we are going down. After the third goal goes in we decide to leave. As we head towards the exit the stewards tell us we can’t leave – only 20 minutes earlier they were all to keen for us to leave. Anyway the stewards are ignored and we push our way out and head back to the pub to drown our sorrows.
As we walk back to the first pub we are rounded up by the police, filmed again, searched under section 60, and then frog-marched back to the pub once again under escort. And there was me thinking we lived in a free country…
Back at the pub we start dissecting our rubbish performance; police are again guarding the pub. As we go to leave, the police cameras are also out in action again.
The station is busy with both sets of fans and a large police presence. The police ratchet up the tension by pushing people around. They seem to be enjoying themselves. Again those supposedly in charge are the one’s creating problems. To me the police are sometimes just more hooligans but in a different uniform. Before the train arrives to take us back to Swindon, two Town fans are dragged away by police and when asked why, they give the usual response of shut up or you’ll be nicked!
We leave Southampton the same way we arrived with a roar of “RED ARMY” reverberating around the station!
I love away days.