I had been to Southampton a few times, sometimes to fly from the airport back to George Best Belfast City. Other times, as band manager of the waves, I had been to rehearsals and gigs there. It is a big city, and much less busy than London. It was only a matter of time before the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club would hold a meeting there. It took six months! The meeting was held on Saturday 22nd May 2006, the day of the West Ham v. Liverpool FA Cup Final. The night before I had stayed with Ben Paulley, who lived in Southampton. the waves played a gig that night in The Nexus Bar. It was a great set and went down well, then me, Ben and Gary ended up getting pished up in some club. Next thing I remember is its FA Cup Final morning and I’m meant to be in Walkabout to chair a meeting at whatever zany time we had decided. I grabbed something quick to eat and wandered down towards Bar Gate to meet Richboy, our club member based in Southampton. Richboy and I met and soon realised that the Walkabout didn’t open till 12. Therefore we headed in to The Red Lion (or The Parrot pub) for a quick pint. During which, club treasurer Tim Beattie called me and asked “Where the hell are you? I’m with the others in Walkabout!!” OK, so it must have opened just after we left the front doors! Richboy and I finished our pints and headed up to the Walkabout.
We quickly got a kitty sorted and started drinking lots. The meeting began and we had a good turnout. Journalist Marshall Gillespie made his SOENISC debut, as did Aaron Reid, James Frost and Dave King. Also there was myself, Alex Isle of Wight army, Owen Millar, Graham Anderson, Richboy, Tim Beattie, Simon McCully and more to come later on…We ran through the brief meeting, agreeing that the next meet up points would be in Bournemouth to watch the World Cup and in Manchester when we take part in the annual five a sides tournament. I had then compiled a three round FA Cup quiz for a bit of banter, so we got three teams in place for that:
1. SOENISC guys supporting West Ham United for the day.
2. SOENISC guys supporting Liverpool for the day.
3. Random English boys in the bar.
Over the next few hours the three teams were doing the quiz in between the football and the drinking. Simon McCully was in charge of the kitty, and with each round of drinks being £50 it was bound to be a pissed up day. We drank pitchers and a few of us got Ulster frys (or the nearest thing to one). Richboy and I started singing “wheres the soda bread?” at the fry. I think it was funny, though I don’t remember.
Simon and Tim got their Liverpool shirts on for the match and soon, very son West Ham went 2-0 up!! We were all going nuts and laughing at Tim and Simon especially who are real Liverpool fans. It was just two years after West Ham’s big rivals Millwall had embarrasingly lost 3-0 to Man United. Suddenly West Ham were playing some great stuff. But it couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. Liverpool pulled one back and it was 2-1.
Then West Ham defied belief AGAIN and went 3-1 up, surely now the Cup would be theirs! Teddy Sheringham came on as sub amidst chants by us, and it looked all over, even when Liverpool made it 3-2, West Ham were defending well and deserved the FA Cup. The match went into the third minute of injury time with West Ham’s hands on the cup and then the ball fell some 35 yards out to Steven Gerrard. If anyone could be relied on giving it a go from there in the last minute, it was Steven Gerrard. To our dismay, he blasted a volley right past David James and into the net for a nuthead equaliser. Suddenly West Ham’s dream looked to be over as the match was now 3-3 and headed into extra time. The history books will show that only Teddy Sheringham scored a penalty in the shoot out for the luckless hammers who missed three and lost 3-1 to Liverpool in the end. At this point Simon and Tim bought and burst open bottles of champagne which was great craic. I then presented an Ireland shirt (Owen got it free) to the English guys who had won the FA Cup Quiz I did. Then we noticed a Chinese looking guy wearing a Brazil top and watching the match on his own! We started singing at him “We’re not Brazil we’re Northern Ireland” and he looked totally bamboozled! Not as much as Owen and I when we asked what his name was and he replied “Alfred.” Now this guy looked about 20 so it was hilarious that he could have the name Alfred, which most people called that were over 70! It was nuts. We then adopted him as a member of the GAWA and by this point, Owen’s mate Carlo had also turned up. Then Richboy, the Southampton resident suggested we move on to “The Parot Pub”, where we put the flegs up and put classics like REM – Everybody Hurts on the dukebox. A few more swallies in there and we were all lit, anyway after this, we got some photies all drunked up by the Bar Gate before blagging our way into The Hog’s Head….
In the Hogs Head, Southampton we did the first ever SOE NISC ‘Gay Disco’, basically there was a hen night and this woman was doing dares so she had to get a photo of her and a guy with his top off. We wanted her top off as well, but she didn’t oblige, but anyway, 4 of us just took our tops off and danced round her and then I got to kiss one of her boobs after that. It was great craic. We should really have stayed in there, but instead went in search of another club. Squares let us in, but Flares said “no fancy dress!” In Squares I was totally pissed! Scott somehow got us all banned, and I started chatting to four random ladies. My memory was quite hazy, but I think I got my willy out in front of them for a dare or something. It was all too drunk and the night ended in a quiet bar for the corner, with me pished, Graham sober as a judge, Richboy the usual and Simon falling asleep. It had been another mental day out. With football, alcohol, nudity and singing all part of the SOE NISC fun!
Who went – Jonny Blair, Owen Millar, Tim Beattie, Dave King, Simon McCully, Richard Ingram, James Frost, David King, Aaron Reid, Alex Higgins, Beverley Perrett, Marshall Gillespie, Graham Anderson, Carlo Bell, Leggo, Alfred Hong Kong Army.