Ear­li­er this year, Southamp­ton Foot­ball Club revealed plans to make a home-only Northam end — mean­ing away sup­port­ers will be moved. This and a new safe-stand­ing sec­tion spell big changes at St Mary’s Sta­di­um.

But this cer­tain­ly isn’t the first time that tick­ets and seat­ing changed com­plete­ly.

A sig­nif­i­cant event took place at The Dell on Feb­ru­ary 28, 1948, when Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur vis­it­ed to com­pete in an FA Cup sixth-round match against the Saints.

Saints had found them­selves play­ing at home in the sixth round of the cup for the very first time.

In fact, they had got to this stage only once before – in 1927 – when they had beat­en Mill­wall, after being drawn away.

Daily Echo: Southampton Football Club (Saints FC) V Tottenham Hotspurs (Spurs) cuptie. February 28, 1948.

Since then, they had nev­er pro­gressed beyond the fourth round.

“The first 700 Tot­ten­ham sup­port­ers arrived by train before mid-day, and they were joined by three more train­loads of peo­ple from Lon­don,” read an Echo report from the time.

The event was met with such excite­ment, the club decid­ed to make it their first all-tick­et match. Even though a notice spec­i­fied that tick­ets would only be avail­able to indi­vid­u­als apply­ing in per­son, Mary Bates, the assis­tant sec­re­tary, found her­self with a stag­ger­ing 15,000 appli­ca­tions wait­ing in the mail­box.

A large num­ber of indi­vid­u­als who received the com­mu­ni­ca­tion braved the chilly night, wait­ing in line for hours in the bit­ter snow, some of them light­ing bra­ziers to keep warm.

Daily Echo: Saints FC (Southampton Football Club) prepare for the cuptie against Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs). February 28, 1948.

The report con­tin­ued: “The fact that the match was an all-tick­et affair did not pre­vent queues from form­ing ear­ly, and peo­ple with­out reserved seats start­ed lin­ing up in Archers-road and Mil­ton-road about 8am. Ear­li­est arrival was Mr R Wheel­er, of South-East-road, Shol­ing, who was out­side the Mil­ton-road entrance at 7.45am

“When the gates opened at 12:15pm it was esti­mat­ed that 5,000 peo­ple were already wait­ing for admit­tance. The nosiest sec­tion was the boy’s queue in Archers-road, where rat­tles were whirring and the ‘two-four-six-eight’ war cry was sus­tained.

“There appeared to be a small but active black mar­ket in tick­ets, and the stan­dard price for the few stand seats which were avail­able by this means was £2.”

Dis­ap­point­ment over­shad­owed the match as 28,425 spec­ta­tors wit­nessed a lack­lus­tre per­for­mance.

Daily Echo: Advert selling tickets appeared in the Daily Echo.

Saints’ first-half efforts con­sist­ed main­ly of head­ers – from Wilf Grant, George Cur­tis and Char­lie Way­man ear­ly on and then, just before the break, from Ted Bates.

The inside-left defied expec­ta­tions with his excep­tion­al aer­i­al abil­i­ties, stand­ing at a height of only 5ft 9ins.

And his head­er that day was no dif­fer­ent as he out­jumped the goal­keep­er of Spurs, Ted Ditch­burn, to direct the ball towards the goal.

The ball brushed the keeper’s hand and hit the top of the post before going over for a cor­ner.

Daily Echo: Southampton Football Club (Saints FC) V Tottenham Hotspurs (Spurs) cuptie. February 28, 1948.

As the sec­ond half unfold­ed, the cor­ners kept flow­ing steadi­ly with­out result­ing in any goals. Cur­tis had a shot cleared off the line and Bates test­ed Ditch­burn with anoth­er head­er near the end.

As the clock struck 70 min­utes, Les Ben­nett broke the tie with a pow­er­ful shot from 20 yards. Cen­ter-half Eric Web­ber couldn’t shake off the feel­ing of frus­tra­tion see­ing the Spurs inside-for­ward strike the ball with his left foot.

Ben­nett was a proven goalscor­er but Web­ber doubt­ed whether he had ‘ever scored a goal with his left foot in his life’.

Left-half Joe Mal­lett agreed: Ben­nett ‘couldn’t kick a ball with his left foot.’ The Tot­ten­ham play­ers couldn’t believe it, either.

Daily Echo: Southampton Football Club (Saints FC) V Tottenham Hotspurs (Spurs) cuptie. February 28, 1948.

Ernie Jones, the out­side-left for the oppos­ing team, joined Saints in an exchange deal for Alf Ram­sey 15 months lat­er. In the vis­i­tors’ dress­ing room, it was a run­ning joke that Ben­nett had scored with the wrong foot.

In a moment that was far from humor­ous, Mary Bates found her­self deeply dis­heart­ened. Tears rolled down her face — the only ever time dur­ing a foot­ball match — as she mourned the out­come

It would be a long wait of 15 years before the Saints advanced to the sixth round once more. This time, it was her hus­band, Ted, who guid­ed them to the semi-finals, fac­ing For­est away in the quar­ter-finals.

And so it would con­tin­ue – semi­fi­nals reached in 1976, 1984 and 1986, each time after being drawn away. A home draw in round six con­tin­ued to be of no use to them – until 2003, when Southamp­ton, at last, pro­gressed after com­ing out of the sixth round bag first.

As the final whis­tle blew on the match 2–0 vic­to­ry against Wolves, a poignant moment enveloped the Bates house­hold. It was the last game Ted ever saw.