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A brief history of Southampton FC

A brief history of Southampton FC

All you need to know about how one of Britain’s most famous football clubs came to be

Now one of the top flight’s regular contenders, Southampton can trace their roots all the way back to 1885 as an amateur side…

History of Southampton FC

In recent years, Southampton FC have smashed their way back into the Premier League with a club record-breaking 2011-2012 run in the Championship, finishing second behind Reading.


Under the then-new manager (and now Tottenham Hotspur’s head honcho) Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton ended their first top flight season 14th, and have stayed in the Premier League ever since.

But what about before all this? Where did the club come from and where have they been? Read on to reveal all this and more with our brief history of the Saints. Together, We March On!



What we now know as Southampton FC started out as a club formed in 1885 by members of St Mary’s Church of England Young Men’s Association, who played football on the banks of the River Itchen.


Originally called Southampton St Mary’s, the club joined the Southern League in 1894 and won the championship for three years running between 1897 and 1899, and again in 1901, 1903 and 1904.


This period of success took place during some major changes for the Saints, as they moved to a new stadium called The Dell in 1898, which would be their home for more than 100 years.


Early days

After World War I, Southampton FC joined the new Football League Third Division, which divided into South and North sections in 1921. Maintaining a solid 31-year run – disrupted somewhat by the Second World War – promotion was narrowly missed in 1949 and 1950 by a margin of just one point. This was also despite star striker Charlie Wayman bagging 56 goals in just one season!


Then, unfortunately, relegation in 1953 sent the Saints sliding back into Division 3 (South).


The 1960s

It took seven years for the Saints to regain Second Division status, with promotion in 1960 after scoring 106 League goals.


Then, the dream of Division 1 football finally came to The Dell for the first time in the glorious year that was 1966, when manager Ted Bates’ team were promoted as runners-up. It was a never-to-be-forgotten achievement for fans.


For the following campaign, then club record signing, Welshman Ron Davies arrived to score 43 goals in his first season and the Saints cemented their status among the elite for eight years.


The 1970s

Southampton then twice qualified for Europe before Bates stood down to be replaced by his assistant Lawrie McMenemy in 1973. The club then became the first victims of the new three-down relegation system in 1974.


Then the most memorable day in Southampton FC’s history came in 1976 when, still a Second Division side, McMenemy led them to win the FA Cup for the first time with a stunning 1-0 victory at Wembley over favourites Manchester United.


In 1978, Saints gained promotion back to Division 1, with a squad of stars such as Alan Ball joining the club.


The 1980s

Kevin Keegan playing for Southampton FC

The signing of Kevin Keegan, twice European Footballer of the Year, from Hamburg, stunned the football world and saw the club finish sixth in the 1980-81 season, then their highest league finish, with Keegan, Ball and Charlie George all involved and contributing to the clubs 76 goals.


The rest of the decade was one of the most successful periods in the club’s history. In the 1983-84 season they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, losing to Everton in extra time. Southampton finished fifth in 1984-85, qualifying for European football for the fourth time in five seasons, and reached the FA Cup semi-finals again the following year.


McMenemy left at the end of that season to be replaced by former Saints player Chris Nicholl, who maintained the clubs top flight and top-scoring status.


The 1990s

In the early 90s, Southampton emerged as one of the country’s most entertaining teams. And, well on his way to becoming a club legend already, Matthew Le Tissier was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 1990.


Alongside Le Tissier, a young Alan Shearer rose through the ranks to become a first team regular and stayed with Southampton until 1992, when he was sold to Blackburn Rovers for a national record of more than £3 million.


That same year, Southampton were founding members of the new Premier League and spent the rest of the decade surviving alongside the elite of English football. In 1996/97 Graeme Souness arrived as manager, and in 1999, Southampton were given the go-ahead to build a new 32,000-seat stadium that would become the modern St Mary’s.


The Noughties

After starting the new millennium under Glenn Hoddle, he left to join Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 2000-01 season, despite keeping Southampton afloat. And in more change for the club, the last game at The Dell was played in that same season, concluded by a winning goal from none other than Matt Le Tissier, claiming the last-ever victory at the ground.


In the subsequent years at St Mary’s however, Southampton went into a bit of a slump, and went through plenty of managers too, with Gordon Strachan, Paul Sturrock and Steven Wigley all parting company with the club before the end of the 2004-05 season.


Harry Redknapp was snapped up from bitter rivals Portsmouth, but unfortunately he could do little to stop Southampton from being relegated on the final day of the season following a 2-1 loss to Manchester United.


Recent history

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin playing for Southampton

The Saints Championship campaign for promotion was up and down until 2008 when in a double whammy of disaster, the club lost its Championship status and went into administration.


But in their first foray back in the third tier of English football in nearly 50 years, the club was bought out and went on to sign new manager Alan Pardew and exciting players like Jason Puncheon and Rickie Lambert.


And it all paid off at the end of the 2009-10 season when Southampton claimed their first piece of silverware by winning 4-1 against Carlisle United in the Johnson’s Paint Trophy. The next couple of years saw more young English players breaking through, with Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain among the squad that won promotion back into the Championship for Southampton.


The next season from 2011 to 2012 saw Southampton regain their Premiership status after seven years adrift from the top flight. And that’s where you’ll find them today.


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