A brief history of Southampton Football Club
In 2001 the move from the Dell to the new St Mary's Stadium was something of a spiritual homecoming for Southampton Football Club.
The team that play in red and white today can trace their roots back to the club formed in 1885 by members of St. Mary's Church Young Men's association who played their football on the banks of the Itchen for 13 years before moving on.
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.
That success spanned some major changes for the Saints as they moved to a newly built £10,000 stadium called The Dell 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 outright in the early part of the next century.
Saints were briefly forced to switch home matches to their local rivals Portsmouth's ground at Fratton Park during World War II when a bomb landed on the Dell pitch, leaving an 18-foot crater which damaged an underground culvert and flooded the pitch.
Promotion was narrowly missed in 1949 and 1950 by a margin of one point and then goal average as Charlie Wayman rattled in a total of 56 goals. Then relegation in 1953 sent Saints sliding back into Division 3 (South).
It took until 1960 for Saints to regain Second Division status, Derek Reeves plundering 39 of the champions' 106 League goals. In 1963 a crowd of 68,000 at Villa Park saw them lose 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final.
The dream of Division 1 football at The Dell for the first time was finally realised in 1966 when Ted Bates' team were promoted as runners-up. It was a never-to-be-forgotten achievement.
For the following campaign Ron Davies arrived to score 43 goals in his first season and Saints stayed among the elite for eight years. Twice they qualified for Europe before becoming the first victims of the new three-down relegation system in 1974.
The most memorable day in Southampton Football Club's history came in 1976 when the Second Division side, managed by Lawrie McMenemy, won the FA Cup for the first time with a sensational 1-0 victory at Wembley over odds-on favourites Manchester United.
In 1978 Saints gained promotion back to Division 1 and a year later they were back at Wembley, losing 3-2 to Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final. Alan Ball was in the Saints team, one of several star names to join the club.
The signing of Kevin Keegan, twice European Footballer of the Year, from Hamburg, was a masterstroke by McMenemy, a move which stunned the football world and one that was followed in the 1983/84 season by the most successful campaign in the clubs' history.
With the great Peter Shilton in goal they finished runners-up to Liverpool in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, losing to Everton in extra time.
By finishing fifth in 1984/85 Saints qualified for European football for the fourth time in five seasons and the following year reached the FA Cup semi-finals again, only to go out to Liverpool.
McMenemy then left in the close season to be replaced by former Saints player Chris Nicholl.
In 1986/87 Saints were again stopped one step short of Wembley with Liverpool again their tormentors, beating them over two legs in the Littlewoods Cup semi-final.
During the 1988/89 season Saints created history by becoming the first club to include three brothers - Danny, Rodney and Raymond Wallace - in a First Division match.
The following year Saints emerged as one of the country's most entertaining teams as second top scorers in the First Division with 71 strikes in their goals for column. Matthew Le Tissier, 24-goal leading scorer, was named PFA Young Player of the Year with strike partner Rodney Wallace in second place.
Alan Shearer emerged as an exciting prospect at the club and in 1992 Saints reached the Zenith Data Systems Cup Final at Wembley, going down 3-2 to Nottingham Forest in extra-time after an epic battle. Shearer was Saints' top scorer with 21 goals and was capped by England.
On the eve of the 1992/93 season an English record transfer fee of £3million saw Blackburn Rovers prise Shearer away from the south coast and Saints were amongst the teams in the newly formed Premier League. Tim Flowers followed his former team-mate to Lancashire mid-way through the 1993/4 season,
1996/97 saw the arrival of Scotland hero Graeme Souness as manager.
Souness brought in several new players including current centre-back Claus Lundekvam and, despite masterminding a 6-3 annihilation of Manchester United, for the third time in four years Saints were not safe until the final day when they stayed up despite a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.
Glenn Hoddle replaced Dave Jones as manager in 2000 and steered Saints to safety but stayed little more than a year, leaving in March 2001 for his spiritual home to take over the vacant manager's position at Tottenham Hotspur.
First team coach Stuart Gray stepped up in a caretaker capacity for the final few games of the season including the memorable final league game at The Dell where Saints triumphed 3-2 over Arsenal thanks to Matthew Le Tissier's unforgettable last minute winner.
Chairman Rupert Lowe acted swiftly dismissing Gray and his assistant Mick Wadsworth in October 2001 after a poor start to the season and brought in former Coventry manager Gordon Strachan to revive the team's fortunes and he promptly led the side to 11th place. The fourth time in five years that Saints had been safe well before the end of the season.
In his second season in charge the wee Scot went on to surpass all expectations as he guided the team to a record breaking 8th place in the Premier League and the FA Cup Final, which Saints lost out in to Arsenal at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
The runners-up spot was good enough to earn Saints a place in the UEFA Cup in 2003/4 season. A tricky first round tie against Steaua Bucharest meant their European tour was a brief one however and a couple of months later Saints' season looked even more shaky when Gordon Strachan announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season to spend time with his family.
Eventually a successor was found in the shape of former Plymouth boss Paul Sturrock who guided the team to a respectable finish of 12th in his first season in charge but at the start of the 2004/5 season he parted company with the club after just two games.
Steve Wigley was also unable to transform the team's fortunes, notching just one win against Portsmouth in 14 Premiership matches in charge. Saints then pulled off what seemed a massive managerial coup as they snapped up former Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp after he had left their bitter rivals only weeks earlier.
However Redknapp was unable to halt the decline despite bringing in five new players during the January transfer window and, after a 27-year stay in the top flight, Saints were relegated on the final day of the 2004/05 season. They lost 2-1 at home to Manchester United to finish bottom of the Premier League.
The 2006-07 Championship campaign was a roller coaster one which built up to a thrilling finale as Saints won five of their last seven matches to secure sixth spot and a play-off place, but they would ultimately lose out to Derby County in the semi-finals, leaving Southampton to face a third season in the Coca-Cola Championship but now without a parachute payment.
As a result, Saints struggled and narrowly avoided relegation in 2007-08 after manager George Burley left midway through the campaign to take charge of Scotland.
In May 2008, Rupert Lowe returned to St Mary's as chairman of the PLC with Michael Wilde taking over as chairman of the football club. Dutchman Jan Poortvliet was named as Saints' new Head Coach with Mark Wotte coming in as Academy Director, but after a disastrous year the club lost its Championship status and the Holding Company (Southampton Leisure Holdings PLC) went into administration.
Following confirmation of relegation Saints were subsequently deducted ten points going into their first campaign in the third tier of English domestic football in nearly 50 years.
The Club was virtually on its knees as administration lingered over Saints for the early part of the summer in 2009. The positive news that everyone had been waiting for finally arrived however, when Nicola Cortese, a man who had built his reputation in Swiss finance, introduced German businessman Markus Liebherr to the idea of buying the Club.
Negotiations with the administrators eventually saw Liebherr complete the purchase of Southampton Football Club on 8th July 2009, with Cortese taking on the day-to-day running of the Club.
A new manager was swiftly appointed in Alan Pardew, while players such as Dan Harding from Ipswich, experienced Tunisian international Radhi Jaidi and striker Rickie Lambert – a £1million acquisition from Bristol Rovers – were quickly recruited.
The psychological burden of ten-point penalty took until early October to clear, with Saints moving off the foot of the League 1 table later that month. By Boxing Day, they had reached mid-table.
More high-profile signings were made in January, as defender José Fonte dropped down a division from Championship side Crystal Palace and winger Jason Puncheon abandoned a loan spell with high-flying MK Dons to switch to St Mary's.
While progress continued to be made in the league, it was in the final of Johnstone's Paint Trophy that – after a succession of dark years – the club would get a long-awaited day in the sunshine. On 28th March 2010, over 50,000 Saints fans travelled to Wembley Stadium to see their side win their first piece of silverware in 34 years as goals from Lambert, Adam Lallana, Papa Waigo and Michail Antonio secured a 4-1 win over Carlisle United.
In the end, Southampton finished the season in seventh, one spot and seven points short of a place in the play-offs. Dark days would return in the summer when Liebherr sadly passed away in August 2010 at the age of 62, but the club would recover and go on to fulfil his legacy in the best possible way.
After a stuttering start to the 2010/11 campaign, Nigel Adkins was brought in as manager, moving down a division after helping Scunthorpe United twice win promotion to the Championship.
Young players like Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin and the emerging Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain flourished as Saints battled their way into the automatic promotion places on New Year's Day 2011. Promotion was all-but secured with victory at Plymouth Argyle on 2nd May, and was mathematically sealed in the final game of the season a week later.
Back in the Championship after a two-year absence, players such as Jack Cork, Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox arrived as Saints hit the ground running, winning six of their first seven matches to go top of the league by mid-September.
By Christmas, Southampton had been beaten just four times in the Championship and were on the verge of going a calendar year unbeaten at home in the league only to lose to relegation-threatened Bristol City on 30th December.
In early February 2012, the club announced that it had begun development on the new Football Development & Support Centre, a cutting-edge new facility at its Staplewood Training Ground in Marchwood.
Saints' on-field progress continued as they returned to the top of the division in February midway through a 12-game unbeaten run that lasted almost two months.
Nevertheless, Saints were kept under pressure by West Ham and late-comers Reading, and had to wait until the last day of the season to ensure promotion by beating Coventry City to secure second place and a return to the Premier League after a seven-year sojourn.
The club broke its transfer record twice in the summer of 2012, bringing in striker Jay Rodriguez from Burnley before signing Uruguayan international Gastón Ramírez on the final day of the transfer window. Japanese Olympic captain Maya Yoshida also moved to St Mary's to link up with his compatriot Tadanari Lee, who had arrived in January.
Academy graduates James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw, both still teenagers, broke into the side, playing regularly in the Premier League alongside the likes of Lambert, Schneiderlin, Lallana and Fonte – all of whom had been playing for the club in League 1 just two years earlier.
On Boxing Day 2012, Southampton appointed Terry Paine MBE – its all-time record appearance-maker, with 815 games for Saints – as Honorary Club President.
After a mixed first half of the season, Saints appointed former Argentina international Mauricio Pochettino as First Team Manager following his three-year spell in charge of Spanish top-flight side RCD Espanyol.
He quickly set about enhancing Southampton's reputation with memorable home wins over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea as Premier League safety was secured with a game to spare.
The transfer record was against broken twice in the summer of 2013 as in-demand midfielder Victor Wanyama arrived from Celtic and Italy international striker Dani Osvaldo moved from Roma.
With a squad consisting of international stars, Academy graduates and players who had experienced the club's rise through the division, the 2013/14 season began with a clear message: our dream is real.