TT Groundhopping No. 4 – Eastleigh (A)

TT GROUNDHOPPING

Another edition of the TT Groundhopping Series as Sam Jones reflects back on his away day to Eastleigh:

SJ

Sam Jones – @samuellejones

I love a good away day, don’t we all? I hadn’t seen us play in over two months so was chomping at the bit to see the Yellows in action again, despite the recent poor form.

I had taken the day off work so Erin (my girlfriend) and I could do a bit of sightseeing before the match. Combining culture and football, look at us! We boarded the 10:09 from Waterloo to Winchester to take in a bit of the holiday festivities at the famous Christmas market. It’s located in the grounds of the Cathedral so it’s really pretty, even if the weather was miserable. What was also nice is that, unlike London where all the markets sell the same crap, Winchester actually had some cool stuff made by local businesses. I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in that part of the world.

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Once we’d had our Christmassy fill and bought enough gifts to offset the guilt of not going to see Mum in three month, we headed down towards Southampton (or Soton if you’re cool like me). My brother, Josh, is at Uni there so we had agreed to meet him for lunch and then go to the game. He hasn’t done many away days before (unless you count Truro on New Years Day) so this felt like a right of passage. Somehow, he had managed to convince his flatmates and his history football team to come along with us. Not sure how he sold that one, but fair play to him. We met him at Southampton Airport Parkway, drove to the City Centre and we stuffed our face with burgers from Five Guys. A fitting pre-match lunch. Not sure why they need five of them, when only one person made the burger.

After a bit more shopping and a wander down Southampton High Street, we drove back to Josh’s house and chilled before the game. Tea made, phones charged, Yellow gear on and we were out the door. We headed to the Southampton Uni pub to meet up with the rest of the crowd heading to the game. I think it’s fair to say I have never felt so old in my life as the bar was full of students drinking after a long days lectures (or having a breakfast pint having just rolled out of bed). I remember those days: carefree, full of booze and this nagging feeling that you really should’ve been studying. I had also forgotten how cheap student pubs are. Two pints of cider were the same as one in London. Bargain.

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Pints finished, loo trips had, Uber’s ordered and so the 12 of us descended on the Silverlake Stadium. Despite being a mile from an international airport (in the loosest sense of the word), it is in the middle of bloody nowhere. It looks and feels like a construction site, with corrugated iron fences and truck trailers dotted around. There was only one exit into the car park, making it slightly precarious for getting in and out of. And then there was the path to the away end, down a narrow dark road with cars coming at you from either ways. Bit of an intimidation tactic from the home side I suspect, which didn’t work.

We made it through the death trap, into the ground and got the customary pre-match burger with chips (yes it was my second of the day, I have a figure to maintain). The ground is fairly tin pot, with four stands of differing shapes and sizes and felt very non league. It was also fairly empty, which is not a surprise considering there is a Premier League ground just down the road. The staff were very friendly and it was only £5 entry for students, which is a hell of a deal.

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I won’t bang on about the game, cause I wrote a sterling match report on it, but it wasn’t great. The full time whistle blew, and Erin and I had to leg it. Despite being a mile from the station, it takes 25 minutes to walk there, and we only had 30 minutes to our train. Legging it through mud and car parks was quite an exciting end to the day, and we did make our train on time.

As away days go, it wasn’t the best. The stadium is in the middle of nowhere and didn’t generate much atmosphere (apart from the pre-recorded chants before kick off). The day was lovely mind, as getting out of London is always a nice thing to do.

It was a lovely day out, ruined by 90 minutes of football.

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