Team Highlight : Southampton F.C.

Southampton clinched promotion to the Premier League with a thumping win. Photo: mirror.co.uk

Majority of teams have their own share of fame and glory when it comes to playing in the Premier League. However, considering that Southampton F.C. have spent majority of their recent history in the top-flight , 20 out of 27 seasons in fact since the inception in 1992, it might seem surprising that Southampton Football Club only have a single major honor to their name, the 1976 FA Cup. Nonetheless, their colour and vast tradition and numerous astounding players who don their shirts make the club a household name of English Football. The club’s youth academy is too renowned for consistently producing top talent and affording them with the opportunities for their growth.Southampton’s strongest rivalry is with Portsmouth, which is another city very close to Southampton on the south coast of England. The first league game between Southampton and Portsmouth was played in 1920 and won 2-0 by Southampton. There probably won’t be another league match for some time, as Portsmouth are currently playing in League 2, which is the fourth level of English football.

“The Saints mean a lot to me. Don’t forget that I was with Southampton from nine years of age until I was 17, so they are always going to be a club close to my heart. And I still have so many close friends on the south coast.” Gareth Bale, ex-Southampton player.

How did Southampton F.C. all started

A painting by Fran McFadden of St Mary’s FC from 1890, when they were outright winners of the Hampshire FA Junior Cup. Photo : southamptonfc.com

The roots of the club can be traced all the way back to the members of the St. Mary’s Church Young Men;s Association, who played their football at various venues in Southampton for 13 years, prior to the move to the club’s ground, The Dell in 1898, where it stayed until 2001. With that being said, with a vast background that is related to the church, comes as evidence of their identity with their most popular nickname – The Saints.

The club’s first match was played on 21 November 1885 on a wide pitch in Northlands Road where the Hampshire Bowling Club was subsequently situated relatively close to the County Cricket Ground. With that being said, the club went by the name St. Mary at the beginning and they won against Fremantle with a score of 5-1. 

The club, as mentioned, was originally known as St. Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C. (usually abbreviated to St. Mary’s Y.M.A.”) , even to the local press, played most of their early games on Southampton Common, and games back then were frequently intervened by pedestrians insistent on exercising their rights to roam. On more important issues, such as cup games, were usually played either at the County Ground, Northlands Road, or the Antelope Cricket Ground in St. Mary’s Road. During the 1887-1888 season, before adopting the name Southampton St. Mary’s when the club entered the Southern League in 1894. However, the final change occurred when the club eventually took home the Southern League title in the 1896-1897 season, pushing the club to transition to a limited company and changing the name that we love as of today, Southampton F.C.

The Dell, Southampton FC ‘s Former Home. Photo : worldsoccertalk.com

Moving forward, the club continued to claim the Southern League championship titles, for three years running between 1897 to 1899 and again during 1901,1903 and 1904. This glorious success sparks some major adjustments for the Saints, as with the better finance that they had, the club relocated to a newly built, £10,000 stadium called “The Dell”. Though they would spend the next 103 years here, the future was still far from certain in those particular early days when the club still had to resort to renting the premises to rack in enough capital to purchase the stadium in the early part of the 20th century.

Good Omens were replaced by bad ones fast. Before the closure of the 19th century, the South Coast managed to reach the first of their 4 FA Cup Finals in 1900. On that day, the club suffered a crushing defeat of 4-0 to Bury and history repeated once again two years later at the hands of Sheffield United with a score of 2-1.

With that in mind, Southampton F.C. became the first British club to tour South America to participate in friendly matches in Argentina and Uruguay in 1904. From there, subsequent English and Scottish clubs followed suit and visited the region, contributing to the spread and development of the sport in South America during the first years of the 20th century.

Southampton F.C as of today

Southampton secured promotion to Premier League 2 Division 1. Photo: premierleague.com

With plenty of relegations over the past few decades following so, Southampton eventually made it way back into the Premier League board, in time for the 2012-2013 season under the coaching of Nigel Adkins. A large fortune was spent to enhance the playing squad but Adkins was soon replaced by Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino. With that, the club ended up the season in 14th but climbed to 8th in the next season.

At the end of the 2013-2014 season, Pochettino left the club and moved towards Tottenham. Ronald Koeman then took over his role with a three-year contract, and made some high-profiled sales of players over the summer. During the final game of the 2014-2015 season, the club finished seventh, which not only is their highest ever Premier League rank but allows them to qualify for the 2015-2016 UEFA Europa League. In the following season, Southampton once again set themselves a new record for the club at the end of the season by placing in sixth place. With that, they once again qualify for the Europa League, but with an additional benefit of entering the group stages straight instead of participating in the playoffs.

Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool transfer. Photo: foxsports.com.au

However, Koeman left the club to join Everton in June 2016 and with Claude Puel to replace him. From then, the club proceeded to getting eliminated in the Europa League but prevailing in the EFL Cup, where they lost 3-2 in the finals to Manchester United. During the summer season, Puel was replaced as manager by Argentine coach Mauricio Pellegrino. The Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk was sold to Liverpool for an estimated price of £75 million, setting a record sale as well as a world record for the defender position.

The exchange of managerial position continues with Pellegrino being sacked in March 2018 and Mark Hughes, the replacement to bring the club to a 17th place finish, barely avoiding relegation. However, he soon got replaced by former RB Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhüttl, who too steered the club away from getting relegated. However, Southampton hit rock bottom in terms of performance on 25 October 2019, losing 9-0 to Leicester City at home, tying with Ipswich Town’s defeat by Manchester United in 1995 as the biggest loss since the Premier League’s inception. Following the universal criticism towards the poor performance, the players and coaching staff refused their wages from the match and instead donated the funds to the Saints Foundation. With that in mind, Southampton F.C. became the first Premier League team to ever defer players salaries. During the COVID-19 pandemic , Southampton stated that manager Ralph Hasenhuttl signed a four year contract extension on 2nd June 2020, securing his position till 2024.