Back in the seventies and eighties when we used to play (and defeat) Bournemouth, it was seen as a real Hampshire derby.
These days, a fixture against Eastleigh can qualify I suppose in those same terms although it is of course hardly as glamourous.
For me It’s another ground to chalk off despite it only being eighty miles along the coast and with no trains on Boxing Day, I do have a National Express return coach booked and a taxi service (Preston Shot Cabs) able to take me to and from the coach station in Southampton. If the driver is reading this, here’s a picture of it…
Boxing Day football is awesome and perfect for clearing the cobwebs and the 3pm kick off allows for all hangovers to subside.
The problem on the pitch is that after our win over Stockport yesterday, we know that Eastleigh are bang in form since Wrexham won there a while back. Yesterday the Spitfires triumphed (see what I did there?) at Bromley and there is always Scott Rendell to worry about.
Looks like terrace tickets for away fans are £15 so this trip for me will be around the £100 mark and much less if I am not drinking.
So what do we know about Eastleigh FC? This from the club’s website…
Playing home matches firstly on Southampton Common, and then at ‘Westfield’ in Swaythling, the new club were promoted into the Hampshire League in 1950 after two campaigns spent in the Southampton Senior League (West). Within another year, Athletic, (that appellation was dropped in 1973) had topped Division Three (West) and won the Hampshire Intermediate Cup.
Eastleigh adopted their ‘Spitfires’ moniker after consultation with supporters during the close season of 2005. Southampton International Airport (previously known as Eastleigh Airport) was home for the assembly of the Supermarine Type F37/34 Spitfire once the aircraft had been built in nearby Woolston.
By 1956, Swaythling were playing in the 1st Division of the County league. They would return to that level in 1970 as champions of Division 2. In keeping with their early progress, the club moved to a new ground at Ten Acres in 1957 – which remains home to this day.
The change to their current name was made in 1980, six years before Eastleigh F.C. became founder members of the Wessex League. The club settled at that level, until a distinguished period under the management of present Sutton United boss Paul Doswell which began in 2002/2003.
Eastleigh were that season’s Wessex League Champions. Twelve months later, they finished 4th in the Southern Football League Division One East. The club were beneficiaries of the F.A.’s restructuring of the non-league pyramid, and were elevated to begin 2004/2005 in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League.
Over nine years in the Conference South, Eastleigh have twice flirted with promotion to non-league’s highest tier.
In 2009, under the management of former Leeds United forward Ian Baird, the Spitfires lost a play-off semi-final against Hayes & Yeading United. A 4-0 extra-time home defeat cancelled out Eastleigh’s 4-2 first-leg victory.
In 2012/2013, a campaign which saw Baird replaced by current boss Richard Hill in September, the Spitfires’ second half of the season form took them from 21st to 4th place, and a play-off meeting with Dover Athletic. A 3-1 home reverse was wiped out with a 2-0 win in Kent, but, ultimately, a losing penalty shoot-out ended Eastleigh’s promotion aspirations.
The intervening years brought the Spitfires’ only ever appearance in the F.A. Cup first round, and some silverware. The 2009/2010 cup adventure was ended by a last gasp goal which earned then Conference Premier team Barrow a 2-1 home win.
Eastleigh’s trophy joy came in the 2011/2012 Hampshire Senior Cup. In a final played at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium against AFC Totton – on a night which featured the first live testing of goal-line technology – the Spitfires were 2-0 winners.
Eastleigh can lay claim to their part in football history then, but they hope to make headlines all of their own in the coming years. The high ambition of all involved with the club comes at no cost to the inclusive and fan friendly atmosphere which exists at the Silverlake Stadium. That is a fact to which founder, Director, and Life President, Derik Brooks will undoubtedly testify.
Eastleigh’s success didn’t stop there – promotion was gained from the Conference South in 2014, where they won the league title. The following season, the Spitfires made the play-offs, however they couldn’t get past a strong Grimsby Town outfit who went on to gain promotion.
The following season saw an impressive FA Cup run, in which Eastleigh took Championship side Bolton Wanderers to a replay. The following season was the same story, with Eastleigh losing away to Championship team Brentford in the Third Round.
In the 2018/19 season, under the guidance of Ben Strevens, Eastleigh finished 7th in the Vanarama National League. This meant they would face Wrexham in the Play Off Eliminator. The game finished 0-0 after normal time and it took a Danny Hollands wonder strike to send Eastleigh through to the Play Off semi finals versus Salford. Again the semi final went to extra time after the game finished 1-1. Only for Eastleigh to narrowly avoid a trip to Wembley after being knocked out on penalties.