Southampton Football Club is a professional English football team, nicknamed The Saints and based in the city of Southampton. The club currently plays in the Championship, since relegation from the Premier League in 2005. Their home ground is the St Mary's Stadium, where the club moved to in 2001 from The Dell.
The Chairman is Michael Wilde and the first team is currently being managed by Jan Poortvliet, who took over managerial duties in May 2008. The club captain is the Swedish defender Michael Svensson, who was appointed in August 2008.
The club has won the FA Cup once, and their highest-ever league finish was second in the top flight in 1983-84.
St Mary's Y.M.A., as they were usually referred to in the local press, played most of their early games on The Common, and games were not infrequently interrupted by pedestrian insistent on exercising their right to roam. More important matches, such as cup games, were played either at the County Cricket Ground in Northlands Road or the Antelope Cricket Ground in St Mary's Road.
The club was originally known as St. Mary's Young Men's Association F.C. (usually abbreviated to "St. Mary's Y.M.A.") and then became simply St. Mary's F.C. in 1887-88, before adopting the name Southampton St. Mary's when the club joined the Southern League in 1894. After they won the Southern League title in 1896-97, the club became a limited company and changed their name to Southampton F.C.
They won the Southern League championship for 3 years running between 1897 and 1899 and again in 1901, 1903 and 1904.
That success spanned some major changes for the Saints as they moved to a newly-built £10,000 stadium called The Dell, to the North West of the city centre in 1898. Although they would spend the next 103 years there, the future was far from certain in those early days and the club had to rent the premises first before they could stump up the cash to buy the stadium in the early part of the 20th century.
Good omens were quick to arrive though and before the 19th century was out the South Coast was given a taste of things to come as they reached the first of their four FA Cup Finals in 1900. On that day they went down 4-0 to Bury and two years later they would suffer a similar fate at the hands of Sheffield United as they were beaten 2-1 in a replay of the 1902 final, but it had given the club a thirst for the big occasion – albeit one that would not be truly satisfied for over 7 decades.
Saints were briefly forced to switch home matches to the ground of their local rivals Portsmouth F.C. at Fratton Park during the Second World War when a bomb landed on The Dell pitch in November 1940, leaving an 18-foot crater which damaged an underground culvert and flooded the pitch.
It took until 1960 for Saints to regain Division 2 status with Derek Reeves plundering 39 of the champions’ 106 league goals. On 27 April 1963 a crowd of 68,000 at Villa Park saw them lose 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final.
For the following campaign Ron Davies arrived to score 43 goals in his first season as Saints scored 74 league goals, conceding 92. Saints stayed among the elite for eight years, with the highest finishing position being 7th place in 1968-69 and again in 1970-71. These finishes were high enough for them to qualify for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969-70 (going out in Round 3 to Newcastle United) and its successor, the UEFA Cup in 1971-72, when they went out in the First Round to Athletic Bilbao.
In December 1973, long term manager Ted Bates stood down to be replaced by Lawrie McMenemy who was unable to prevent The Saints becoming the first victims of the new 3-down relegation system in 1974 when they were relegated, along with Manchester United and Norwich City.
In 1980, McMenemy made his finest signing, capturing the "European Footballer of the Year" Kevin Keegan. Although Keegan's Southampton career only lasted two years, Saints fielded an attractive side also containing Alan Ball, Ted MacDougall, Phil Boyer, Mick Channon and Charlie George and in 1980-81 they scored 76 goals, finishing in 6th place, then their highest league finish.
Southampton continued to progress well under McMenemy's stewardship, and with a team containing Peter Shilton, Nick Holmes, David Armstrong, top-scorer Steve Moran and Danny Wallace reached their highest ever league finish as runners-up in 1983-84 (3 points behind the champions Liverpool) as well as reaching the semi-final of the F.A. Cup losing 1-0 to Everton at Highbury Stadium.
They finished fifth the following year, but as a result of the Heysel Disaster all English clubs were banned from European competition - had it not been for this, then Southampton would have qualified for the UEFA Cup once again.
Ian Branfoot was sacked in January 1994 with Southampton battling relegation. He was replaced by Exeter manager Alan Ball. Ball secured the Saints' survival for the 1993-94 season and guided them to a respectable tenth-place finish in the Premiership in 1994-95, with inspirational performances from Matthew Le Tissier. But amidst rumours of lack of support from the Board, Ball was lured to Manchester City in the summer of 1995 and Southampton turned to long-serving coach David Merrington to take charge of the team in 1995-96. Southampton finished 17th with 38 league points, avoiding relegation on goal difference. Two important wins during the final weeks of the season did much to ensure that Saints and not Manchester City would achieve Premiership survival. First came a 3-1 home win over eventual double winners Manchester United, then came a 1-0 away win over relegated Bolton Wanderers. Merrington was dismissed a few days after the end of the season and replaced by former Liverpool and Rangers manager Graeme Souness.
Southampton fared little better in 1996-97 despite the arrival of Souness, whose track record included two Scottish league titles with Rangers and an FA Cup victory with Liverpool. Souness brought in quality foreign players with Egil Ostenstad and Eyal Berkovic. The highlight of the season was a 6-3 win over Manchester United at the Dell in October, when both his signings scored twice. However, he had to deal with criticism over the Ali Dia debacle. He resigned after just one season in charge following a dispute over transfer funds, after he had overseen Southampton's 16th place finish in the Premiership. Southampton's directors turned to Dave Jones — one of the most respected managers outside the Premiership who had won promotion to Division One with Stockport County as well as reaching the League Cup semi finals.
With such an inexperienced manager, Southampton were tipped by many observers to be relegated from the Premiership in 1997-98. But thanks to the addition of young striker Kevin Davies, and the acquisition of a few others, Southampton achieved a respectable 11th place finish in the table and managed a home win over Manchester United for the third consecutive season. Their form seriously dipped in 1998-99 as they were rooted to the bottom of the table for much of the first half of the season, but they again avoided relegation on the last day of the season after a late run of good results, helped by the intervention of Latvian Marian Pahars and old hero Le Tissier (The so-called "Great Escape"). In 1999 Southampton were given the go-ahead to build a new 32,000-seat stadium in the St Mary's area of the city, a welcome move after playing in the cramped Dell since 1898.
During the 1999-2000 season, Dave Jones quit as Southampton manager to concentrate on a court case after he was accused of abusing children at the children's home where he had worked during the 1980s. The accusations were later proved to be groundless but it was too late to save Jones's career as Southampton manager and he was succeeded by ex-England team manager Glenn Hoddle.
Glenn Hoddle helped keep Southampton well clear of the Premiership drop zone but having received an offer from a higher profile club, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur just before the end of the 2000-01 season. He was replaced by first-team coach Stuart Gray, who oversaw the relocation to the St Mary's Stadium for the 2001-02 season. At the end of the 2000-01 season, in the last competitive match at the Dell, talismanic Matthew Le Tissier came on late to strike the last ever goal at that famous and much-loved old stadium in sublime fashion with a half volley on the turn. Southampton finished the match 3-2 against Arsenal, providing a fairy-tale ending to the days at The Dell. But Gray was sacked after a disastrous start to the following season, and in came ex-Coventry manager Gordon Strachan as his replacement.
Gordon Strachan did much to revitalise Southampton during the 2001-02 season, and they finished in a secure 11th place in the final table. They did even better in 2002-03, finished eighth in the Premiership and coming runners-up in the FA Cup to Arsenal (after losing 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium), thanks in no small part to the metamorphisis of James Beattie, who fired home 24 goals, 23 in the league. Consistency followed in the next season, as a side led in attack by Beattie and Kevin Phillips secured 12th place and yet again defeated Manchester United on their own soil.
Strachan resigned in March 2004 (to take a break from football) and was replaced by Paul Sturrock, who had been in the process of guiding Plymouth Argyle to their second promotion in three seasons. However, rumours of player dissatisfaction and personal problems dogged Sturrock, and he was replaced just five months later by reserve team coach Steve Wigley. Wigley's tenure proved disastrous, with Southampton slipping further and further down the Premiership table during 2004/05. Frenchman Christian Damiano was brought in to assist, but after a run of only one win in 14 games, both men's contracts were terminated.
Chairman Rupert Lowe risked the ire of Saints fans when he appointed Harry Redknapp as manager on December 8 2004. The news shocked much of the football world, as Redknapp had resigned as manager of Saints' arch-rivals Portsmouth just days previously. He brought in a number of new signings, including his own son Jamie Redknapp in the attempt to survive relegation. However, it was all in vain as West Bromwich Albion secured survival at Southampton's expense. Having overcome years of being on the brink of relegation, Southampton were finally condemned just as they began to look secure.
Lowe and Southampton continued to make headlines after former England Rugby World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward joined the club - eventually being appointed Technical Director.
Saints made a disappointing start to life back in the second tier of English football, with the emergence of young star Theo Walcott as a rare cause for optimism. Yet even more shocks were to await the fans.
On November 24 2005, Portsmouth manager Alain Perrin, the man who himself replaced Harry Redknapp at Southampton's arch-rivals, was sacked by chairman Milan Mandaric. Rumours gradually grew apace that Mandaric and Redknapp had resolved the dispute that caused Redknapp to walk out in the first place, and that he was poised to rejoin his former club.
With these rumours seemingly reaching breaking point in the media - not to mention the bookmakers - Redknapp walked out on Southampton on December 3 2005. The two rival clubs found themselves at loggerheads over legal compensation, which threatened to leave Redknapp in limbo, but with the dispute eventually resolved, Redknapp rejoined Portsmouth on December 7 2005. After three matches under caretaker manager Dave Bassett and assistant Dennis Wise, George Burley was unveiled as the club's new head coach on December 23 to work alongside Clive Woodward, who was promoted from Performance Director to Director of Football.
During the 2006-07 season, the board set about trying to secure new investment in the club. However, on 26 February 2007, it was announced that Michael Wilde would step down as chairman of the football club on 28 February. On 2 March it was announced that Leon Crouch would take the role of "acting Chairman" until the end of that season, when the Board would reassess the situation. Crouch was reportedly fired on 21 July 2007.
On 27 April 2007, it was rumoured that Paul Allen, the American entrepreneur who formed Microsoft with Bill Gates, might launch a takeover bid for the club. These rumours were later confirmed when the club announced that Allen had made a preliminary offer although Allen subsequently denied any such interest.
On 22 October 2007 it was announced the club's plc board had received a takeover bid from an unknown investor which would purchase 55% of the shares in the company. Two days later, a London-based hedge fund, SISU Capital, was named as the potential new owner. The self-described "special situations investment fund management company" has previously attempted to gain control of Derby County F.C. and Manchester City F.C.; former footballer Ray Ranson was involved with both bids, and SISU intended to nominate him for a place on the Southampton board. However, on 14 December it was confirmed that SISU had completed a takeover of Coventry City, effectively ending their interest in Southampton.
In January 2008 it was reported in the media that tycoon Kia Joorabchian was mounting a £50 million take over bid, a rumour later exposed as pure speculation.
The day before a proposed EGM to reinstate Lowe along with Wilde was to take place, the remaining board room members bar David Jones resigned, allowing Lowe and Wilde to return. Wilde as Chairman of Southampton Football Club and Rupert Lowe as Chairman of Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC
The good form which secured Southampton's Championship status in 2005-06 was carried through to the start of the 2006-07 season, and the turn of the year saw the team in fourth place in the table. The new board of directors had spent a club record £6 million on transfers. Polish strikers Grzegorz Rasiak and Marek Saganowski and 17 year-old left back Gareth Bale all had great runs in form. A drastic loss in the team's form overall, coupled with poor displays against fellow promotion hopefuls, saw the team drop to eighth place by mid-March 2007, and rapidly losing touch with the promotion race. However, with other promotion rivals dropping points and a small run of form in late April, Southampton were able to reach 6th place, the last play-off position. They lost the home leg of their playoff semi-final to Derby County, and on 15 May achieved parity on aggregate but lost on penalties in a thrilling encounter.
The 2007-08 season went much worse for Southampton, with many players being sold over the summer, boardroom unrest and the loss of manager George Burley, who moved on to become the Scotland international team manager. On February 18, 2008, former West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle assistant manager Nigel Pearson was appointed as manager. In a closely contested league, they survived relegation on the final day of the 2007–08 season with a 3–2 victory over Sheffield United, at the expense of Leicester City.
The St. Mary's Stadium has been home to the Saints since August 2001. It has a capacity of 32,689 and is one of only a handful of stadia in Europe to meet UEFA's Four Star Criteria. In the 2004-05 season, attendances never fell below 30,000. The stadium has also been host to a number of internationals including England's qualifying game against FYR Macedonia in 2002 where the teams drew 2-2, with David Beckham and Steven Gerrard scoring for England.
The club's previous home had been The Dell, which it moved into in 1898 and remained at for 103 years.
The club's training facilities, known as Staplewood are located in Marchwood, on the edge of the New Forest. They have received significant investment over the last 10 years, most notably during the time Sir Clive Woodward was employed by the club between 2005 and 2006, and are now considered to be among some of the best in the country.
In June 2008 it was announced that several parts of St Mary's Stadium are to be closed for the 2008/09 season. The closures are a cost-cutting measure forced on the club by financial pressures.
Originally, the club used the same crest as the one used by the city itself. However during the 1970s a competition was run for fans to design a new one.
The winning design was used for around 20 years, before being modified slightly by Southampton design agency The Graphics Workshop in the 1990s for copyright reasons.
From top-to-bottom, the halo is a reference to the nickname 'Saints', the ball to the nature of the club, the scarf to the fans and the team colours. The tree represents the nearby New Forest and the water Southampton's connections with the rivers, seas and oceans. Below that is a Mayflower - the symbol of the city which is also present on the city crest. The Mayflower was also the name of the first Puritan ship of immigrants that originally left Southampton (and Plymouth) for the "New World", thus beginning the colony that eventually became the United States.
In the mid-1990s the ball was changed from a vintage style ball (such as those used in the 1960s) to the current ball with black and white panels, for copyright reasons.
Southampton runs a highly successful youth academy, with a number of teams from ages nine to 18 years. Recent products of the club's youth system include England international wingers Theo Walcott and Wayne Bridge, Wales left-back Gareth Bale, and Northern Ireland defender Chris Baird.
Mick Channon, who had two spells with the club, currently holds the record for the number of Football League goals scored for The Saints. During his times with the club between 1966 and 1977, and 1979 and 1982, he netted 185 times in league competition. The next highest scorer is Matthew Le Tissier, an attacking midfielder who spent his entire career with the club between 1986 and 2002, scoring 162 goals in 442 league appearances. As of April 2007, he is the only midfielder to have scored more than 100 goals in the Premier League. Third highest is winger Terry Paine, who played at The Dell between 1956 and 1974. He scored 160 goals for the club.
The full list of the club's top ten all-time Football League scorers are:
Seven companies have sponsored the club, thus appearing on the player's shirts, over the course of its history. The first company to do so was photocopier manufacturer Rank Xerox who sponsored the club for three years from 1980. Air Florida briefly sponsored Southampton in 1983 before Draper Tools, who have a large factory in nearby Eastleigh sponsored the club for nine years between 1984 and 1993. Millbrook based company Dimplex, who produce electrical goods such as heaters were the next brand name to appear on the club's shirts and merchandise. They began sponsoring in 1993 before the deal ended in 1995. The Sanderson Group PLC took up the mantle, for four years from 1995, also sponsoring Sheffield Wednesday at the same time.
Investment company Friends Provident were the final sponsors of the club's time at The Dell. Their deal began in 1999 and was renewed shortly before the naming of St. Mary's Stadium, to which they also bought the naming rights. However they chose not to renew either deal in 2006, after which budget airline Flybe.com stepped in.
Biggest losses -
Most appearances - Terry Paine - 815 : 1956-1974
Most goals - Mick Channon - 228 : 1966-1977, 1979-1982
Most goals in one season - Derek Reeves - 44 : 1959-60
Most capped player while at Southampton - Peter Shilton - 49 (125 in total)
Record transfers -
* with professional contract
Chairman Michael Wilde
Executive Directors Rupert Lowe, Andrew Cowen, David Jones (company secretary),
Head Coach Jan Poortvliet
Sports Scientists Paul Balsom (head of sports science), Scott McLachlan (performance analysis), Andy Barr (head of sports medicine)
The trust currently now over 700 members and the proxy control of some 720,000 shares, approximately three per cent of the club.