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A New Record Attendance!

Posted on: Fri 21 Oct 2011

Amid the gladsome tidings broadcast on the PA as the faithful skipped out of St Mary's last night was a reminder that the crowd - 32,152 - was a new Club record, pipping by one occupied seat the record set on 29 December 2003, when 32,151 fetched up to watch a Premier League fixture against Arsenal. A match, unfortunately for the record books, that saw Saints defeated 1-0 by the eventual champions.

That was not just a ground record, but an all-time attendance record for Southampton FC. In the summer of 2001, when Saints decamped from The Dell, they became the first top flight club move to a ground with a capacity greater than their record gate. During 2001-02 record breaking attendances became something of a routine.

Over the years capacities have shrunk as safety legislation has grown. The homes of most of the country's biggest clubs were once huge bowls of banking with a stand or two. As they developed the capacities diminished. Most record gates were set prior to the 1950s. Saints, as in most things, are exceptional.

The Dell's record gate came on the evening of Wednesday 8 October 1969, when 31,044 turned up to witness a Division One fixture against Manchester United. In August Saints had won 4-1 at Old Trafford, with Ron Davies netting all four, and legions turned out in hopes of something similar. But Davies was sidelined, and a somewhat peevish affair ended with the visitors winning 3-0.

The Saints board had maintained since the opening of the West Stand in 1928 that The Dell's capacity was around 32,000, but experience did not bear this out. Big crowds were invariably followed by vociferous complaints from those who couldn't even access the terraces, never mind get a descent view if they did. Further. The crushing was often so bad, breathing could be problematical; feet could be left dangling for minutes at a time; and being trampled was a genuine hazard.

The maddest evening at The Dell was almost certainly the Mike Channon Testimonial, against Queen's Park Rangers, when an official gate of 29,508 was logged. However, it is widely believed that illicit entries - over rather than through the turnstiles - may have seen the Manchester United total exceeded. And this is not at all improbable.

Those of you new to Saints supporting might be wondering why a possible record attendance might be achieved for a testimonial? Even a testimonial for a player as magnificent as Mike Channon? Answer: it was two days after the 1976 FA Cup Final.

1908 v Everton  11th March 1908, FA Cup fourth round, v Everton. The match attracted a then official record home gate of 21,690. Saints went through to the semi-finals following a 3-2 victory.  

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