A FOOTBALL FAN was attacked and seriously injured near the St Mary's football stadium yesterday.

It happened shortly before kick-off on Sunday afternoon on a green in Golden Grove as a group of Manchester United fans were approaching the Saints ground.

Witnesses said the supporters, believed to be United fans, were chanting as they passed the Gladstone Club which is a well known Saints supporters meeting point.

They said more than a dozen Saints fans then ran out of the club, armed with metal bars and pieces of wood, and attacked the United contingent.

One man, who asked not to be named, said: "It was a horrific beating. Disgusting. The man was lying on the ground not moving and they just kept on beating him.

"Anyone who does that to someone else shouldn't be called a fan. They were acting like thugs."

Police were called and the man was given first aid before being taken to Southampton General Hospital by ambulance.

Last night his condition was described as very serious. He was due to undergo extensive tests at the hospital's neurological ward to ascertain the extent of his injuries. Friends were understood to be at his bedside.

Officers immediately sealed off the area around the scene, shortly after 2.45pm, while neighbours and those attending the game were also being quizzed over what happened.

A spokesman for Hampshire police said: "This was a very serious incident that has left the victim with significant injuries.

"We would urge anyone with any information about this incident to get in touch as soon as possible, either directly to Shirley CID on 0845 045 4545, or via the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111."