The Fall and Rise of Southampton

Southampton a team that has always ran on close margins whether that be relegation, promotion or even staying in business, however what can be sure is that saints fans will never be in for a dull ride at St Mary’s and previously before that The Del.

Even though the saints lost to Man City this weekend they’ve had their best start to a top flight division for over twenty years. Most people at the start of the season saw them as relegation fodder along with Burnley however the club have surprised people this season and made a big impact in the Premier league.

Not counted as one of the big four or even in the top ten for financial clout with their outstanding track record of doing clever business at the right time and bringing through wave after wave of potential academy talent the Southampton team of today looks in a similar state to the one that was in the Championship about eight years ago. In the 2006-07 season Southampton were a team that were looking to push for promotion and were one of the bigger teams in that league which included the likes of Sunderland, Birmingham City and Derby County. They finished that season just making the playoff places but lost out in a thrilling two legged affair to Derby County the eventual playoff winners.

As with the current season summer transfer window the club in the summer of 2007 had to sell a lot of its top players and also some of their academy stars such as Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale who would go on to be the world’s most expensive player. With the sale of such potential and important players, George Burley the manager at the time left the club in January to take over the Scotland national side, Jason Dodd and John Gorman took charge for what was supposedly the rest of the season however Nigel Pearson was brought in, in February and saved the club from relegation on the final day by beating Sheffield United three, two.

At the start of the 08-09 season things started to go downhill with the sale of more influential players and the team in bad form, the club went into administration, due to going into administration it was decided by the football league that the club would have 10 points deducted which confirmed Southampton’s fate and relegated the club to league one. It was the first time in 50 years that club had played at this level.

Southampton achieved promotion two seasons later and things were certainly looking up. In 2011-12 season Southampton were promoted to the Premier League and were back in the big time. In their first season back in the top flight for a while 2012-13 they finished the season in 14th place a very respectable finishing position as it seemed like the club was making good progress. Last season they wanted to improve again and did finishing in a strong 8th place, at the end of the season the manager Mauricio Pochettino left the club for fellow Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur. With the club without a manager the team having their best season since 2003 supporters must have thought Europe here we come. However influential players were sold and the spine of the team was ripped apart, players such as Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all left St Mary’s to join Liverpool. Adam Chambers joined Arsenal and promising right back Luke Shaw joined Manchester United. The team now looked vulnerable and unlikely to buy the sort of quality that they had decided to sell. Players such as Dušan Tadić from FC Twente and Graziano Pellè from Feyenoord, other key signings were Fraser Forster bought from Celtic and Shane Long made the trip down from Hull City to sign on the dotted line for the saints. Ronald Koeman had been placed at the helm of the club by this point and the one time Barcelona legend was determined not to let this be Southampton’s dejavu moment from 2007 when the club was relegated. So far this season Southampton have been the surprise team and even though they lost at the weekend to Man City fans around the country are tipping the saints to go all the way into the top 4. However it remains to be seen whether they have the squad depth to cope with such a feet but if they do succeed it would send a big message out to the rest of the league, telling other teams just because they don’t have the same financial clout as the big four doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.