A brief history of Southampton

August 1, 2012
By Rob Smyth

Southampton
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Formed: 1885
Previous names: St Mary's Church Young Men's Association FC
Admitted to Football League: 1920
Third Division: 1
FA Cup: 1

For those of a certain age, Southampton are part of the furniture in the English top flight. They were ever present from 1978 to 2005, sometimes surviving in improbable circumstances, frequently because of the staggering genius of Matthew Le Tissier, one of the most popular players in English football history.

The club was formed in 1885 under the name St Mary's Church Young Men's Association FC, before changing their name to Southampton FC 12 years later. They won the Southern League six times between 1897 and 1904, and were also beaten FA Cup finalists in 1900 and 1902. During that period they moved to The Dell, which would be their home from 1898 to 2001.

After the war, Southampton joined the newly formed Football League Division Three. They were promoted as champions of Division Three South in 1922 and would stay in Division Two for the next 31 years. After coming extremely close to promotion in three consecutive years between 1947 and 1950 - in the last of those they missed out by 0.06 of a goal - they were relegated in 1953. They were promoted again as champions in 1960 and then reached the top flight for the first time with another promotion in 1966 under the management of the legendary Ted Bates, who held the position for 18 years. An eight-year stay followed, during which Southampton played European football for the first time. They also finished 19th three times in those eight years before being relegated in 1974, now under Lawrie McMenemy.

Two years later, while still in Division Two, came their finest hour, a stunning victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup final, with Bobby Stokes scoring the only goal late on.

They were promoted again in 1978, and this time stayed for nearly 30 years. They were League Cup finalists in 1979, and soon began to sign a number of world stars, including Kevin Keegan - who was European Footballer of the Year at the time - and goalkeeper Peter Shilton. At one stage in 1982 they had six former England captains in the side: Keegan, Shilton, Alan Ball, Mick Channon, Mick Mills and David Watson.

They finished second behind Liverpool in 1983-84 and fifth the following season. Then, in the late 1980s, a brilliant young side began to emerge, with an attack of Rod Wallace, Alan Shearer and Le Tissier. After Shearer and Wallace moved on, Le Tissier was influential in keeping Southampton in the Premier League during the 1990s, with four last-day escapes in six seasons.

Southampton moved to St Mary's in 2001 and seemed to be a comfortable Premier League side, with four consecutive finishes between eighth and 12th. They also reached the FA Cup final in 2003, losing to Arsenal. But two years later they were relegated under Harry Redknapp.

That was the start of a strange and troubled spell which included the appointment of Sir Clive Woodward as technical director, a slew of managerial changes and a spell in administration which precipitated relegation to League One in 2009. The club's fortunes changes when they were sold to the Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr, and their future was secure even though Liebherr died a year later.

Earlier in 2010 Southampton had won the Football League Trophy, the club's first trophy for 34 years. Alan Pardew was sacked a few months later despite that triumph, and the decision was an unqualified triumph. His replacement Nigel Adkins secured consecutive promotions to take Southampton back to the Premier League.