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On This Day In History - 3rd May 1976 Mike Channon Testimonial
Sunday, 3rd May 2020 10:35

FA Cup fever was still in full swing and Saints fans were about to enjoy a third consecutive day of celebration with Mike Channon deservedly having his testimonial at the Dell, was this the most packed the ground had ever been ?

Back in the 1970's it was always Mike & not Mick Channon, you can perhaps tell the age of a Saints supporter by the way they refer to the ex Saint , but if the fans can't agree on what to call him by name, they all call him a Legend.

A year earlier Mike Channon had revealed on a TV documentary that he thought it was time to leave the club, the board had turned down his transfer request so back in those days before freedom of contract that was the end of the matter, but as part of the sweetener to persuade him to give Saints at least one more season the club had agreed that he could have a testimonial at the end of the 1975/76 season, little did Mike know back then that the timing of it could not be better both in terms of the financial gain and the success on the field.

So it was that Queens Park Rangers would be the opponents and the date was set for the Monday night after the FA Cup Final, little did we know then we would be in the Cup Final.

For me the Monday morning was a case of going back to School after the Easter holidays, schoolwork was not on high the agenda for most though, even the teachers, some of whom had been to the game on Saturday, the main subject was Wembley two days earlier and the Dell that evening.

Back in those days testimonials were not usually full houses, Mike Channon being a club legend could expect a decent gate, but in normal circumstances he would have expected to get somewhere between 15-18,000, the last two testimonials at the ground for Ted Bates and Terry Paine had seen around that number.

Back then at the Dell tickets were usually only sold for the upper West & East stands the only seating areas back then, sales were reported as brisk when they first went on sale, but in the run up to the final they had sold out, so for those of us who went regularly we knew that left 24,000 terrace places pay on the day and with 200,000 said to have watched the open topped bus parade, we knew that every man and his dog would want to go.

For evening games that in those days always kicked off at 7.30pm , the turnstiles always opened at 6pm, so the moment school had finished we ran home got changed and were soon meeting up to catch the number 17 bus to Foyes Corner and it was clear even at 5pm that it was going to be a big crowd.

We had the advantage though being at school in that we finished earlier than most of those working, so we were at the ground and in the queue at 5pm, so the moment the gates opened we were near the front of the queue and soon inside the ground, although we had spent most of the season watching from the Archers Road end, this time we opted for the Milton Road end.

The official gate was 29,508, but there were far more than that in there, people would have used the double click where two fans squeezed into one space in the turnstile and gave the operator a tip as such, and some just scrambled over.

The gates were closed long before kick off and the Echo reported that there were over 5,000 locked out, i.m sure some were also let in through the exit gate for a few bob to the stewards.

The time passed quickly, the Romsey Old Boys Band dressed in their bizarre costume as bumble bees and paraded up and down and getting the crowd going, meaning that when Channon himself ran onto the pitch through a guard of honour that the entire ground went wild in a way never seen before or since, you truly had to be there.

I was straight over the wall and onto the pitch along with a couple of dozen others to mob our hero and I can be seen on the footage now available on you tube and we accompanied Mike on his lap of honour around the Dell pitch.

Nowadays we would probably be thrown out and banned from the ground, but back then it was seen as part of the celebrations not rowdy behaviour.

With the lap of honour over we got back into the crowd and it was now Bobby Stokes turn to take the applause as well as a car donated by Fords, who then were a big employer in their plant at Swaythling, initially they had offered a car to any Saints player who could score a hat trick in the final, but they had got just as carried as anyone and decided to give it to Bobby for scoring the winner, ironically he couldn't drive.

But after all this there was a game of football, this at the time could have been a warm up for the Charity Shield, Queens Park Rangers were leading the First Division a pont ahead of Liverpool who had to play their final game later in the week, sadly for QPR the scenes they were witnessing at the Dell would be seen by Wolves fans, who saw their team relegated after Liverpool beat them at Molyneaux to overtake QPR and win the title, Liverpool had travelled in numbers and swarmed on to the pitch at the end.

At first it was a competitive game of football Bobby Stokes scored on the half hour, Frank McClintock equalised just before the break.

To ease the pressure on the terraces some of the fans were now sat in front of the perimeter walls although this did not bother the players, Stokes scored again and then Stan Bowles equalised with 10 minutes to go.

Now it started to become a shambles, more and more fans were now pitch side of the barriers and Phil Parkes standing on his own penalty spot at the Milton Road end was in a little inlet with supporters forming an arc around him, it was now clear that the game was not going to reach 90 minutes.

At this stage I seem to recall that even more fans were now in the ground, as was the norm with 10 minutes to go the gates had been opened to let out those who wanted to leave early, I am sure no one was leaving but plenty had waited outside and were now pouring in and putting pressure on those inside the ground, given the nature of the Milton Road perimeter wall basically a five foot wall behind the goal, it is a minor miracle that it did not give way and cause serious injury.

The players were starting to all want to play down the West Stand side for an easier exit, the catalyst was a shot by Peter Osgood, it was heading just wide but hit an unknown supporter and went in the net, the one goal that even Duncan Holley and Gary Chalk in their excellent books could not name the scorer, quite a few claimed it in the pub after i'm sure.

Now the game was over as the fans from all sides rushed onto the pitch, no one was interested in the game we just wanted to celebrate again.

The team re appeared in the directors box with the FA Cup to great acclaim, for many of us after never seeing the trophy in person as such before we had now seen it three times in three days, four if like me you had seen the bus tour in two places.

So what was the score, well officially it is given as 2-2, the referee stated that as Osgood had shot he had blown his whistle and the game had ended before it had entered the goal.

Photo: Action Images

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