IT IS 20 years to the day since Southampton FC played their last competitive game at the Dell – a 3-2 victory over Arsenal in which Matthew Le Tissier fired home the winning goal.

Saints can trace their roots back to a game between St Mary’s Young Men’s Association and Freemantle in November 1885.

Early years were spent playing on the Common, the Antelope ground near to the Royal South Hants Hospital and at the County Ground in Northlands Road.

The Dell, built for £10,000 on a small valley, was opened on September 3, 1898 with a game against Brighton United which ended with a 4-1 victory.

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The last ever game at the ground was a friendly on Saturday, May 26, 2001 versus Brighton & Hove Albion. Uwe Rosler scored the final goal at the Dell for Saints in a 1-0 victory.

After the game, fans were allowed to take home their seat as demolition was to start the following Monday.

The Dell had an advanced drainage system when built in 1898. The Rollesbrook, which flowed through it from the Common, had been channelled into a conduit by the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway Company.

An article in the Southampton Observer, published in September 1898 reads: “Down to the centre runs a culvert 400 feet in length 4 feet six inches high and 2 feet wide… less than 13,000 feet of agricultural drain pipes were used”

A new West Stand was added in 1928 and in 1929 a fire destroyed the East Stand. A replica of the West Stand replaced it.

The Dell was a compact stadium and opposing teams often found the atmosphere intimidating.

The pitch was bombed November 30, 1940, creating an 18-foot crater in the Milton Road penalty area.

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In February 1941, Saints played a “home” War Cup tie with Brentford at Fratton Park, Portsmouth and the Dell was re-opened in October.

There were many notable moments for fans at The Dell.

Saints had the first permanent floodlights, using them in a friendly against Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic – now AFC Bournemouth – on October 31, 1950.

The fondly remembered “chocolate boxes” at the Milton Road end were replaced by 1984.

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The Dell saw First Division football for the first time in 1966.

The highest official attendance of 31,044 in October 1969 watched Saints lose to Manchester United.

In 1974 Saints were the first team to be relegated under the new three-down system.

Mick Channon’s testimonial game was played days after the 1976 FA Cup final win over Manchester United.

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In October 1976 George Best was sent off at the Dell while playing for Fulham and in April 1988, Alan Shearer scored a hat trick on his Saints debut.

On October 22, 1988, Saints had 3 brothers Danny, Rodney and Raymond Wallace in the same team.

In November 1996 Ali Dia, who was signed after a hoax call to Graeme Souness, came on as a substitute and was substituted himself after 50 minutes.

In April 1996 Saints beat Manchester United 3-1. United were 3 down by halftime and Alex Ferguson blamed their grey shirts causing their players not to be able to spot each other. They changed to blue and white shirts for the second half.

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After the Hillsborough tragedy in the early 1990’s all seated stadia were introduced. The Dell had just 15,200 seats, the smallest ground in the Premier League. From the late 1970’s there were plans to build a new stadium where the West Quay Retail Park is today and on another occasion relocating to North Stoneham, but neither move materialised.

Saints finally moved to St. Mary’s opening with a friendly game against Espanyol on August 11, 2001.

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The site of the old Dell is now housing with the former centre circle kept as a green area.

Apartment courts are named after ex-Saints players including local hero Matthew Le Tissier who scored 47 out of his 48 penalties.

Crossley Court remembers the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper who actually saved a Le Tissier penalty at the Dell in March 1993.

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .