The most southerly of all Premier League clubs, Southampton, known as the Saints, are not a fashionable side nor do they have an enormous list of honours. But they are very much a side on the way up and with the increased funds through TV deals now available to all PL clubs, as well as their entry into Europe, Southampton have made themselves very much a team and a club that deserves to be taken seriously.
The team entered the top tier of English football in 1966 where they remained until 1974 when new rules sending three rather than two teams down found them back in the Second Division. Their charismatic manager Lawrie McMenemy introduced some key players including Peter Osgood, Jim McCalliog, Jim Steele and Peter Rodrigues to strengthen their promotion chances. In 1976 Saints found themselves in the FA Cup Final at Wembley up against the might of Manchester United. Bobby Stokes scored the only goal of the match with a swing of his left foot, making him a legend among Saints fan. Sadly Stokes, a heavy smoker, was to die at 44 of bronchopneumonia.
Two years later in 1978, under the captaincy of England’s World Cup hero Alan Ball, Southampton were back in the First Division and they were to remain in the top flight, becoming founder members of the Premier League. For much of the time this represented an epic struggle against relegation which finally came after 27 years in the top tier. The next seven years were to see the Saints reduced to the status of a third-tier side and face financial disaster but happily the tide turned and in 2012-13 they were a Premier League side again. Since then as previously mentioned progress has been substantial and sustained, despite managerial changes.
Many great players have worn the Saints strip over this period. Matthew Le Tissier (1986-2002) scored 209 goals in 540 appearances. He was also an accurate penalty-taker: only missing once out of 48 attempts.
Striker Rickie Lambert joined in 2009 and played a crucial role in bringing the club out of the doldrums – from Division One through the Championship and back to the Premier League. He scored no fewer than 117 goals for the Saints across all competitions.
Mick Channon is the Saints’ most prolific goal scorer of all time, with 228 goals. Mick played for the Club for fifteen years and played a key part in the campaign that saw their only major trophy, the 1976 FA Cup win.
Recently the Saints have brought in a host of talented players whilst still continuing to live within their means. These have included Mané, Graziano Pelle, Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand, Shane Long and Dusan Tadic plus Charlie Austin from QPR. The future seems very bright and Southampton are worth the journey to the South Coast to watch.
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