Created | Updated Feb 24, 2006
Southampton FC is an Association Football club in Hampshire, England. The club was founded in 1885, one of a select few at the time to be south of London, and has since had a long and illustrious history. Nicknamed the Saints, after the original name of the team1, they have always played in a red and white vertically-striped strip.
The Early Years
The club was originally named Southampton St Mary's, and was founded by members of Saint Mary's Church Young Men's Association. They joined the nascent Southern League in 1894, winning it three times in a row between 1897 - 99, and again in 1901, 1903 and 1904. During this time they reached and lost two FA cup finals, losing to Bury and Sheffield United, and moved to a new stadium, the Dell, in 1898.
In 1920, they joined the newly-formed football league Division Three, from which they were promoted a year later. The club remained in the Second Division for 31 years, narrowly missing out on promotion more than once, before they were relegated again in 1953. They regained Second Division status in 1960, before being promoted to the heady heights of the First Division2 in 1966, under manager Ted Bates. There they stayed for eight years, achieving more than a modicum of success, qualifying for European competitions twice.
The Saints unfortunately fell victim to the new 'three-down' system of relegation in 1974, but two years later, in 1976, the club achieved what is without doubt its greatest feat: a Second Division Southampton team sensationally beat an all-conquering - not to mention top-flight - Manchester United, at Wembley, 1-0 in the FA Cup final. This team was promoted in 1978, and a year later lost 3-2 to Nottingham Forest in another cup final, this time the League Cup. This period was something of a purple patch for the team: for over a decade, the team was constantly involved in either European competitions or final stages of domestic cups. A number of star players also plied their trade on the South Coast, including English World Cup Winner Alan Ball, and, sensationally, Kevin Keegan, who had twice been voted European Footballer of the Year, a coup which stunned the football world, not to mention every hairdresser on the south coast3.
The 1990s were a somewhat less successful period for the club. The battle against relegation became a yearly event, and quality players were few and far between: the professionals who made up the squad at this time are mostly still playing4 at lower league clubs. The glory days seemed to be well and truly over. The club was pretty much kept afloat by one man amidst a stream of ineffectual managers who came and went5: Matthew Le Tissier, a man who was regularly the team's top scorer, and that from midfield. Supporting the Saints became a high-stress, low-gain pastime as they repeatedly crashed to disappointing defeats. Still, they did provide some entertainment even at the darkest of times, beating the transcendent Manchester United at home three years in a row; one of those scorelines an incredible 6-36! During the early nineties, future England captain and goal machine Alan Shearer began his career; after a few seasons he moved to Blackburn, for a then UK record £3.2 million. He helped Blackburn lift a Premiership title during his stint at the club.
1976 and 2003
It is fair to say that Southampton, although doubtless the best team on the south coast7, they are not an especially large or successful club. They have never won the league title, and only have one FA Cup to their name. Their meagre efforts in Europe have resulted in one quarter-final appearance, in the European Cup-Winners' Cup8, where they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Anderlecht.
This means that a disproportionate amount of pride is put by the club's supporters in the one FA cup success that Southampton have to their name. In fairness, this victory, which came in 1976, was, in lazy pundit terminology, a 'fairytale' match. Saints were definitely the underdogs, a plucky second division team facing the might and majesty of an all-conquering Manchester United. Nevertheless, victory ensued, with Bobby Stokes the scorer in the 83rd minute. The entire city rather felt they deserved it, after United winger Gordon Hill asked before the game 'who are Southampton?'
2003 was another vintage FA Cup year; the team had a ludicrously easy run to the final, being drawn largely against lower division opposition, and easing past them all. The final was against an Arsenal team who had just seen their seemingly unassailable lead on the league fall away to Manchester United, and had two weeks previously minced the Saints 6-1 at Highbury. Omens were not good. Nevertheless, Southampton yet again accept their underdog role with relish, and lost by one Robert Pires goal to nil, despite having very much the better of the second half, and having come agonisingly close on several occasions.
The Brazilian Connection
Brazilian football: attractive, flowing, attacking flair play, replete with ludicrous amount of skill and poise. Southampton are directly responsible for the introduction of the beautiful game to the country. A British expatriate named Miller was supervising railway construction in Sao Paolo in the late 19th Century. He decided his son needed an English education, however, and duly sent his ten-year old son, Charlie, back to England in order to attend a school called Banister Court in Southampton. It was here he discovered football, a game at which he turned out to be rather good. In the south of England, the ground is harder than in the north, so a rapid dribbling game developed, as opposed to the more sedantry passing style that northern terrain promoted. Young Miller proved to be rather adept at dribble, swerve, pace and feign. He was good enough to make the first Southampton club side, scoring at the age of only 17 on his debut, in a 3-1 victory over an army side. He returned to Sao Paulo in 1894 at the age of 20, with two footballs in his luggage. Miller almost single-handedly spread the game throughout his adopted country. He even gave his name to a skill used even today by the best Brazilian players, and by the greats such as Socrates, Rivelino and Pele: the 'Chaleiro', which is a deft little flick of the ball with the heel.
Another goal-scorer, this time a striker, Channon is the 15th highest scorer for England in the overall tables, having amassed 21 goals over the course of 46 caps between 1972 and 1977. He played at the club for two stints; from 1966 to 1977, and then from 1979 to 1982. He scored 277 goals for the club, which is a sizeable total, to say the least. His famous goalscoring celebration was the oft-imitated windmilling arm. Interestingly, he is one of the few ex-pros who have managed to make a name for themselves outside the game; he is now a successful and respected racehorse trainer.
Matt Le Tissier
The most famous Saint of recent years, and arguably the club's greatest player; Le God, as he was known around the south coast, was an unswervingly loyal servant. Though he mysteriously supported Tottenham Hotspur as a boy, he started and ended his career at Southampton, and he is often seen as solely responsible for season after season of Premiership survival in the mid-1990s. Scandalously overlooked for a regular berth in the England team of the day by Terry Venables9, he managed to amass only eight caps, despite regularly finishing as top scorer for his club, usually with more than 20 league goals to his name. Many commentators saw his ludicrous talent on a par with Paul Gascoigne, though he was often said not to fully apply himself. He scored 209 goals for the club, in league and cup, in 462 appearances. What a man.
McMenemy was the manager who guided the Saints to their solitary FA Cup victory and later to promotion to the top division. Widely regarded as Southampton's all-time greatest manager, and indeed one of the best managers the country has ever produced, McMenemy delighted in positively cramming his side full of footballing stars. During the early 1980s he created a little piece of history by fielding a Southampton side containing six past, present or future England captains. McMenemy's fame in Southampton was such that, after a spell as England's assistant manager, he was offered to post of Director of Football for the Saints. The fortunes of the team followed an upward curve for the three years McMenemy held this role, rising from relegation-battlers to mid-table safety.
All statistics accurate to February 2005.
- Record attendance: 32,104 v Liverpool. Premiership, 18 January 2003.
- Record victories: 9-3 v Wolves. Div 2, 18 September 1965. 8-2 v Coventry. Div 1, 28 April 1984.
- Record defeats: 0-8 v Tottenham. Div 2, 28 March 1936. 0-8 v Everton. Div 1, 20 November 1971.
- Highest transfer fee paid: Rory Delap. £4m from Derby County (July 2001).
- Transfer fee received: Dean Richards. £8.1m to Tottenham Hotspur (September 2001).
- Most capped player: Peter Shilton10.
- Most goals in one season: Derek Reeves. 44 goals in the 1959/60 season.
- Career scoring record: Mick Channon. 227 goals in all competitions.
- Most appearances: Terry Paine. 809 appearances between 1956 and 1974
FA Cup Winners: 1976