Southampton FC is a football1 club in England, one of a select few to be found south of London. The club has had a long and illustrious history since being founded in 1885. Nicknamed the Saints, after the original name of the team2. They play in a red and white vertically striped 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 3, from which they were promoted a year later. The club remained in division 2 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 division3 in 1966, under Ted Bates. There they stayed for eight years, acheiving more than a modicum of success, seeing as they qualified for European competitions twice.
Saints unfortunately fell victim to the new three-down system of relegation in 1974, but two years later, in 1976, the club acheived what is without doubt its greatest feat: a second division Southampton team sensationally beat an all-conquering, and not to mention First Division, Manchester United, who went down 1-0 at Wembley. The team was promoted in 1978, and a year later lost 3-2 to Nottingham Forest in another cup final, this time the League Cup4. 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 Keegan5, 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 coast.
The nineties 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 who are still playing are mostly 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 went6: Matthew Le Tissier, a man who was regularly by far the team's top scorer, from midfield. Supporting the Saints became a high-stress, low-gain occupation as they repeatedly crashed to disappointing defeats. Still, they did provide some entertainment even at the darkest of times, beating the transcendant Manchester United at home three years in a row, with one of those scorelines an incredible 6-3! For one of these defeats, Alex Ferguson's excuse was a peach. He claimed that the United away kit, a grey shirt that had been designed to be worn with jeans rather than on a football field, lessened player visibility in evening light, and so a team of minnows were able to take advantage. The strip was abandonned as a direct consequence. During the early nineties, future England captain and all round goal machine Alan Shearer began his career; he moved after a few seasons to Blackburn, for a then UK record £3.2 million. He helped them lift a premiership title during his stint at the club, which, frankly, was more than he could do for us.
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 nineties. Scandalously overlooked for a regular berth in the England team of the day by Venables, he managed to amass only 8 caps, despite regularly finishing as top scorer for his club, usually with more than twenty league goals to his name. Many commentators saw his ludicrous talent on par with Paul Gascogine, 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.
Mick Channon - 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 fairly sizeable total, to say the least. His goalscoring celebration was famously the now oft-immitated windmilling arm. Interestingly, he is one of the few ex-pros who have managed to make a decent name for themselves outside the game; he is a successful and respected racehorse trainer.
All statistics accurate to August 2003.
- Record attendance: 32,104 Vs Liverpool Premiership 18/1/03
- Record victories: 9-3 vs. Wolves Div.2, Sept. 1965, 8-2 vs. Coventry Div.1, April 1984
- Record defeats: 0-8 vs. Tottenham Div.2, march 1936, 0-8 vs. Everton Div.1, nov. 1971
- Highest transfer fee paid: Rory Delap £4m from Derby County (July 2001)
- Transfer fee received: Dean Richards £8.1m to Tottenham Hotspur (Sept 2001)
- Most capped player: Peter Shilton 7: England
- Most goals in one season: Derek Reeves - 44 : 1959/60
- Career scoring record: Mick Channon - 227
- Most appearances: Terry Paine - 809 : 1956-1974
FA Cup Winners: 1976
1976 and 2003
It is fair to say that Southampton, although doubtless the best team on the south coast8, 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' Cup9. 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, coming up 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 who 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 coming 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 nineteenth century. He decided his son needed an English education however, and duly sent his 10 year old son Charlie back to blighty, 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 gorund 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 on his debut in a 3-1 victory over an army side at the age of only 17. He returned to Sao Pauloin 1894 at the age of 20, with two footballs in his luggage. He almost single-handedly promulgated 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.