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On This Day In History 29th March Part 1
Sunday, 29th Mar 2020 11:05

42 Years ago today Saints and their fans were heading out of the country for a vital match, did you attend ? did we win, what was the score read on about the Club's first bubble away match.

Saints were heading for promotion back to the top flight on 29th March 1978 and on this day they were heading overseas, well the Severn River and heading to Ninian Park in Cardiff for a game that was relegation battlers V promotion seekers.

This was a game being played just after the Easter Period, a period which would see 4 games played in a week, Charlton on the Saturday, Bristol Rovers on the Monday both at home, followed by Cardiff away on the Wednesday and Blackburn at home again three days later.

Today's players are complaining that they might be asked to play 9 games in a six week period soon, yet at the end of that season we played 10 games in 5 weeks, in those days we had far smaller squads and the fitness levels were a lot lower, indeed 7 outfield players played 39 or more of the 42 game League season and an 8th David Peach played 34.

The number of Saints fans able to travel to Cardiff City was restricted, the Welsh club had serious issues with crowd trouble and had made games all ticket, another one of their measures to try and control this was insist that visiting clubs only sell tickets to those that travelled on official club transport .

For me that meant joining the Saints Travel Club, a much ridiculed organisation back then as being young we laughed at the fact that they played games of bingo to pass the boredom on their trips and they didn't let you drink alcohol.

In fairness back then coaches did not have toilets on board and video recorders were still something you saw on Star Trek not in people's homes, so they were making their own entertainment, but most fans preferred to go by other means where the entertainment was heavy drinking and drunken antics.

But needs must so I had to join and so on this day 42 years ago I was boarding a "Bingo Bus" as it was dubbed and heading to Wales.

The restrictions meant that only around 500 travelled, bear in mind that a week earlier we had taken a large following to fellow promotion rivals and a week after we would take about 7,000 up to Fulham on a Friday night and you can see how these restrictions stopped people going not to mention Ninian Park had a fearsome reputation, so it was not going to be a game for the faint hearted with so few fans and no segregation.

Saints supporters were placed in the paddock in front of their main stand, an area also populated by home supporters, yes it was policed, but in those days segregation was limited, even at the Dell there was no segregation fencing in the Archers Road then and it relied on the police to keep the away fan in one place and form a line of Coppers to stop the more volatile element of Saints support away from them.

So with most of the Saints support on this night the older more sedate sort and families as was the usual Saints Travel Club member, you almost hoped that we would not win and annoy the locals, almost but not quite !

So we found ourselves in a 11,359 crowd most of them baying for English blood.

But this would turn out to be our only defeat in our last 14 games of the season, so on the safety front it meant that we didn't score so we didn't have much chance to draw attention to ourselves.

The only goal of the game came fairly early on in the 14th minute and Saints couldn't seem to find their usual rhythm, Cardiff were battling for their lives and dug in and I can't remember that we had much in the way of chances.

Jimmy Anderson Cardiff's Manager was magnanimous in victory, it had become a four horse race at the top with ourselves, Spurs, Bolton & Brighton neck and neck, but he said "I think Southampton will go up for one reason ... Alan Ball"

Ball who would be 33 in May of that year played 41 of the 42 league games that year, unlike today's pampered professionals henever once complained about having to play a game of football, indeed you felt that he would have increased the number of games not reduced them if he ran the football league.

The only good aspect was that as Cardiff fans celebrated a vital win on the final whistle we were able to make our way back to the coach park virtually unmolested, although only about 100 yards away across the road, it had a reputation as a bit of a nightmare, back in the 70's it was usual at most grounds including the Dell, to have the home sides hooligan element congregate outside of the away end to give the opposition supporters a good send off, for good send off read good kicking.

I am not condoning this behaviour I am just telling you how it was back then, there was no hooligan code back then, any member of the opposition young or old was not exempt from attack, luckily most back then had a conscience of sorts so most people randomly punched and kicked in the melee's outside grounds were of a target group, sadly on nights like this, being in the target market as I was back then age wise, was not something to relish with so few away fans present.

Ultimately this was a result that affected both clubs come the end of the season, a draw at Cardiff would have seen us take the title on goal difference from Bolton who finished a point ahead of us.

For the home side a draw would have sent them down, again on goal difference with Blackpool staying up.

This was early in what would be a golden period for Saints every game was an adventure for the right and the wrong reasons.

Photo: Action Images



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dirk_doone added 12:27 - Mar 29
Yes, I was at that game too, Nick. I don't remember much 'baying for blood'; just a drab game of football. I preferred the next three away trips to Fulham, Luton and Orient a lot more though. We had a massive away following back then and in those last 3 games outnumbered the home fans.
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