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Looking back at Southampton’s now defunct former home The Dell

Next up in our look at former homes of football clubs, it’s The Dell of Southampton.

The Saints played at the ground from 1898 until the club moved in 2001 to the St Mary’s Stadium.

The first ever match was on the 3rd of September 1898 between Southampton and Brighton United and it hosted an international match in 1901, as England beat Ireland in the British Home Championship.

After The Dell initially consisted of two covered stands with seats and two natural banks for standing, the ground had it’s first major development when in 1928 a new West Stand was built. The stand had been designed by Archibald Leitch, one of the greatest football stand designers, however one year later, one the final day of the 1928/29 season, a fire destroyed the East Stand which went on to be replaced mirroring the West Stand.

That was only the first disaster to have happened at the ground, as in 1940, a German bomb was dropped on it during the Blitz creating an 18-foot crater in the Milton Road penalty area as quoted by the club. Saints had to play their remaining fixtures away.

The Dell saw another fire just a year later, an explosion of munitions kept at the ground produced a major fire in the West Stand. Saints had to play their home games at Eastleigh before their ground was re-opened towards the end of 1941.

1950 saw the ground become the first in England to install permanent floodlights.

Also in the post-war years, it is said 30,000 people could fit in The Dell. The attendance record was set in 1969, when 31,044 watched Southampton lose to Manchester United, which included George Best and Bobby Charlton.

In the 1980s, more developments were made to the stadium, with the famous chocolate boxes at the Milton Road end being replaced by a new family stand, which also got changed again in the early 1990s when the stadium got converted into an all-seater in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster.

By the mid-1990s the club announced plans to move to a new stadium and in 1999 construction began of the St Mary’s Stadium.

Southampton came into dispute with the local council and the residents of Eastleigh were unhappy with having another town’s club in their area. The dispute was resolved and the new ground was planned to be built elsewhere.

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The moved to their new home was confirmed at the end of the 1998/99 season but didn’t play at St Mary’s until the 2001/02 season.

The club played its last league match at The Dell on the 19th of May 2001 in a fixture where Southampton beat Arsenal 3-2, the last goal was scored by local hero Matthew Le Tissier (who retired a year later).

 

 
 
 
 
 
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14 years ago, we said goodbye to The Dell – and THIS happened. #saintsfc

A post shared by Southampton FC (@southamptonfc) on

A few days later, fans had the chance to say one last goodbye by stripping the stadium’s seats, the pitch and advertising boards after a friendly against Brighton & Hove Albion, the first and last opponents at the stadium.

Soon after, the stadium got demolished and replaced by a housing estate with the apartment blocks being named after former Southampton players, Stokes Court, Bates Court, Le Tissier Court and Wallace Court.

 

For more classic photos and many memories of the ground from supporters, click onto the next page.

You can also get your nostalgic football fix by visiting the Fan Banter Store, there is a wide variety of Southampton vintage shirts and matchday programmes.

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