A city in the centre of the south coast of England, Southampton sits at the place where two rivers (the Test and the Itchen) join to form Southampton Water and the Solent. A Roman settlement called Clausentum lay on the eastern side, but a later Saxon settlement named Hamwic, between the two rivers, forms the basis of the current city.

Just south of Southampton lies the Isle of Wight with the Solent on either side. This geographical arrangement means that Southampton has four tides a day, as the sea rises from one side of the Solent and then the other. The extra tides, and the depth of the water, have allowed Southampton to be a successful trading port through most of its history.

In Medieaval times the city was raided by the French and almost destroyed. This prompted the building of extensive city walls and fortifications, many of which are still visible in the city today. Trade by sea was important to the city, with goods arriving and leaving for destinations around England, mainland Europe and Scandanavia. A few buildings from this time, including a Tudor merchants hall, still survive. The northern gate to the city walls, the Bargate, still stands and forms a distinctive landmark in the centre of the modern shopping area.

When the Pilgrim Fathers made their voyage to America in the Mayflower, Southampton was one of their final ports of call (I believe they also stopped at Plymouth). There is a large memorial on the waterfront where they sailed from, and many aspects of the city are named to commemorate the voyage (Mayflower Park, the Mayflower Theatre).

In the 19th century, when the railway arrived, there was significant land reclamation and the old waterfront, just outside the city walls, disappeared. In its place were built modern docks, loading facilities and warehouses, all connected to the railway network. Southampton became an important port for trade and transportation within the British Empire.

Sea travel became popular and the famous shipping lines like P&O and Cunard grew with it. Southampton was the embarkation point for transatlantic voyages on the luxury liners. It was possible to travel by train from London right to the dockside and join the ship. In 1912 the Titanic sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton. There are two memorials in the city that remember the disaster, one for the crew and one for the musicians who lost their lives.

During the second world war Southampton was an important strategic location. As well as a port, there were shipbuilding facilities and major industrial sites. The Supermarine Spitfire, the fighter aircraft sometimes credited with winning the Battle of Britain, was designed, tested and built in Southampton. In 1944 Southampton was a major embarkation port for the D-day landings, along with most other ports along the south coast of England.

Because of its importance, Southampton received lots of enemy attention in the war and was heavily bombed. Large areas of the city centre were destroyed. The ruins of one church have been preserved as a memorial. The remaining areas were redeveloped, giving the mixture of mediaeval, old and modern buildings that exist today.

There are many parks, public gardens and open spaces in Southampton and a strong tradition of monuments and public works of art that are still being commissioned today. Southampton's main war memorial is called the Cenotaph and was used as a model for the national war memorial in London, also called the Cenotaph. Each year in November, wreaths are laid and the dead are remembered.

I have lived in Southampton for 15 years and am always seeking to learn more about my home. Southampton is currently home to around half a million people.

...or the 'Saints', are the south of England's only premier league football club. The club was founded in 1885 and first reached the top division of English football in 1966. Eight years later they were relegated. When in the second division they enjoyed their greatest moment - a 1-0 shock win over the almighty Manchester United in the FA Cup final under the direction of legendary boss Lawrie Mcmenemy. That was in 1976: 2 years later they achieved a return to Division 1, and have stayed in the top flight ever since. They even finished 2nd to Liverpool in 1984, and played in the UEFA Cup - a major European competition - several times. The current manager is the feisty redhead Gordon Strachan, and the team captain is Jason Dodd. Their record signing is Rory Delap, who came from Derby for £4.3 million: their record sale is Dean Richards, who deserted them for the loathed Tottenham Hotspur in 2001 for over £8 million. Their biggest local rivals are Portsmouth, or 'Pompey': sadly, this team are so indescribably bad that they very rarely get to play each other as Portsmouth haven't ventured out of the lower divisions for some years now. (Sorry if I'm not maintaining much neutrality here.)

Their old home was The Dell, a 15 000 seater which, though intimidating for opposition sides thanks to it's intimate atmosphere, wasn't really capable of generating sufficient gate money for the premier league. In 2001 they waved goodbye to their beloved home and moved in to plush new surroundings at the 32 000 capacity St Mary's Stadium, which generates much more income for the club and should help them push on to the top half of the Premier League.

I've supported them since I was about eight, in 1991. Without question the single greatest player I've seen in that period is the almighty Matt Le Tissier, who was at one time probably the best player in the UK. He deserved to win many caps for England but never really got a sustained chance at international level. Supporting them is a pretty nervewracking experience - they've regularly brushed with relegation during that period, often surviving by the skin of their teeth on the final day of the season. They've had too many managers, really, and not enough consistency: whenever anyone starts doing well they leave - I'm thinking particularly of Glenn Hoddle, the former England boss, who jumped ship to his old club Tottenham Hotspur. Still, it's much more interesting than supporting some dull mid-table side - I'd rather have the excitement of perennial shitness than obscure mediocrity. Southampton are rubbish, but they're rubbish in style. A few awards:

    • Best game I've watched: beating Man U 6-3 at home. This was truly astonishing. We played like world champions. Who could forget Eyal Berkovic's stunning 30 yard strike?
      Best goal I've seen: Matt Le Tissier's against Blackburn. Showed incredible awareness to chip the 'keeper from the edge of the centre circle. Glorious.
      Best goalie: Tim Flowers. At one time a world record goalkeeper signing, for Blackburn from us. How times change, eh Timmie?
      Best defender: a tie between the solid Dean Richards, who loses points for leaving, and the thrilling youngster Wayne Bridge. At the time of writing he's getting geared up for the World Cup. Go Wayne! (PS - I went out last week and saw him in a bar. A friend of mine spoke to him in Winchester Notions: he said 'you're naaht going to the World Cup! (see the link for an explanation.) Wayne loked a little confused.)
      Ugliest player:Iain Dowie. Without question. Check out http://members.lycos.co.uk/SaintsPreserveUs/IainDowie.htm and you'll see what I mean.
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