When the Saints beat the Devils

Five-foot one, flabby bum, Bobby Stokes is on the run!

Southampton from Division Two have beaten the odds-on favourites, the best team in the world, the mighty Manchester United.  According to bookmakers and pundits alike, it wasn’t a question of whether Manchester United would win the Wembley Final or not, but more of a question of by how many. Would it be 4-0 or 5-0?  It was neither. It was 1-0  for Southampton.

In the heat of the sweltering summer, the Saints had beaten the Red Devils and they did so with a goal from the unlikeliest of heroes, the diminutive and erstwhile unheard of Robert William Thomas Stokes, known as Bobby. In that hottest of days, the Portsmouth born Southampton player kept his cool in the 83rd minute of the game to latch on to a pass from former Manchester United player, Jim McCalliog and slide the ball past the diving Alex Stepney into the back of the net.

In a quiet residential area of Southampton, the Bay Tree pub nestled on a corner of New Road. The pub was usually frequented by a handful of locals who liked to play dominoes whilst the Juke Box played the Moody Blues. But at 4.38 pm on Saturday 1st May 1976  the dusty shelves and musty smells exploded into life. Fifteen young lads in a tired old pub jumped up in front of the tv screen, we cheered loudly, hugged each other, we clapped each other’s back,  smiled and laughed, we might have even kissed each other, at least one pint was spilt onto the once-red, garish, sticky carpet as we celebrated the goal. We joined arms and danced the can-can as we sang Knees-Up Mother Brown, with a mixed bag of regional accents. My out of tune Ayrshire brogue joined with others from across Scotland, Wales, and the industrial north. All of us thrown together by the needs of commerce to ship goods around the world and to train young lads to do so. Merchant Navy cadets escaping broken homes and jobless futures, our pent-up frustrations released on the day that the nobodies and has-beens won.




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