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England Again At St Mary's ! Has It Really Been 17 Years !
Tuesday, 10th Sep 2019 12:37

With England playing Kosovo this evening in the second full England International match to be played at St Mary's it is hard to think that it is almost 17 years since the last one.

Time has flown by since St Mary's opened 18 years ago and it cannot be too long before the first player runs out in the Stadium in a first team Saints shirt who was not born when it opened it's gates for the first time in August 2001.

England of course played there in October 2002, but that was not the first full International match to be played at the stadium, that happened on Sunday 7th October 2001, most Saints fans will have long forgotten the friendly international played on that day between Japan & Nigeria that ended 2-2.

A year later came the big one England took on Macedonia in a European Championship qualifying game on October 16th 2002.

Back then the England squad was packed with big names and they stayed at the Grand Harbour Hotel and even wandered into West Quay for a look around the shops, David Beckham famously becoming trapped in Schuh, whether he was the first person to actually find they had the shoes he wanted in his size is not recorded.

32,095 packed into St Mary's that night a slight increase on the normal capacity as with so few Macedonians in the crowd there was no away section and no segregation netting thus freeing up more seats.

The England line up that night included our own Wayne Bridge and was as follows.

1 David Seaman
2 Gary Neville
3 Ashley Cole
4 Steven Gerrard (subbed 56')
5 Jonathan Woodgate
6 Sol Campbell
7 David Beckham (c)
8 Paul Scholes
9 Alan Smith
10 Michael Owen
11 Wayne Bridge (subbed 59')

16Nicky Butt 56'
18Darius Vassell 59

The game started badly for England when Artim Šakiri scored after only 11 minutes but David Beckham got possibly his only cheers from the home areas in a Southampton stadium when he equalised 3 minutes later, if England fans thought normal order was restored Vančo Trajanov didn't as he restored the lead on 25 minutes bringing a couple of dozen Macedonian's in the Itchen stand to their feet.

On 36 minutes Stephen Gerrard got the second equaliser of the night but that finished the scoring for the evening.

England's hopes of winning it were set back when Alan Smith was sent off for a second yellow card and it was seen as a disappointing result for 7th ranked England against 94th Macedonia.

Macedonia would finish 2nd bottom of the table come the following year with only 6 points, England topped the group but only by 1 point from Turkey after a tense 0-0 draw in Istanbul in the final qualifying game.

The game at St Mary's was significant in that it was England keeper David Seaman's 75th and it turned out last cap for his country.

So to go back to the headline has it really been 17 years since England last payed here ? the answer is yes and in a couple of years time we will celebrate 20 years with St Mary's as our home and that is really hard to take.

For Saints fans over 35 we still remember the Dell well, but for most under that age the Dell is perhaps a distant memory of for a large part of our support these days, not even a distant memory just a picture on the internet that they can recognise but that is all.

That is sad but times must move on and we all realised that an appreciated that when we left the Dell, we knew we had to move and St Mary's has become our home and has made some special memories in that time.

Photo: Action Images

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