Based in the Hampshire province in England, Southampton FC was originally founded at St. Mary’s Church on 21st of November 1885 by members of the St. Mary’s Church of England Young Men’s Association. The club was first named as St. Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C. after which it was simply called as St. Mary’s F.C. in 1887–88 before being instilled as Southampton F.C in 1896–97 after winning the Southern League title.
Being one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992-93, the club did face some tough times to remain in the top tier of English football. After 27 years of continuously competing in the First Division, Southampton were relegated from the Premier League in 2005. The club however returned to the top division seven years later in 2012 and have remained afloat ever since.
The Saints have been crowned the champions of Football League One once in 1960 and have also won the prestigious FA Cup in 1976. Given their rich history and past roots, we have witnessed some of the finest talents from across the globe represent the Saints in the years gone by who have given moments that shall forever be etched in the hearts of their supporters. Here’s a countdown to the Top 12 greatest Southampton players of all time.
The 12 Greatest Southampton Players Of All Time are –
8 ALAN BALL
Alan Ball loved the club so much he had two spells as a player, then returned as manager. He first joined in 1976 from Arsenal, despite offers from several top-flight clubs. “I reckon McMenemy and myself were the only two people convinced I’d done the right thing,” he said in his autobiography. But he helped to get Saints promoted, missing just one of 42 games in 1977-78, and bringing on Steve Williams. The second spell were the magic years when Saints topped the old First Division for the first time. He left, aged nearly 38, only to return as manager, bring Le Tissier back into the team and save Saints from relegation. Apart from Ted Bates, no other player/manager had such an impact on Saints.
7 DEREK REEVES
Derek Reeves joined Southampton FC in December 1954 having been demobbed from National Service. He scored on his debut against his home town club, Bournemouth. Reeves soon became the scourge of Third Division services. A quick, bustling player with explosive finishing he was able to capitalise on any half-chances inside the penalty area and his lack of height did not interfere with his heading capabilities. He was the first of a succession of Saints forwards to benefit from the services of those wing wonders, Paine and Sydenham.
For four consecutive seasons from 1956-57, Reeves was Southampton’s top scorer, including 39 in 1959-60 – a tally never since matched, and unlikely to be. In an interview in 2004, Channon said: “Derek Reeves was my hero. He was responsible for me becoming a Southampton fan.” That in itself is enough to promote Reeves into the Top 10. Channon added: “Goals used to go in off his knee, head and arse. He was a chubby little chap, but quite nippy. He used to miss hundreds, including countless howlers, but always came back for more. You could tell he loved it. He was Southampton’s centre-forward at a time when they had two great wingers and whoever played with them would have scored goals. John Sydenham was lightning fast; he used to whizz down the left wing and whack ’em across. Derek would stick his head on the end of it amid all the boots, then they’d carry him back to the halfway line, half-conscious.” Fantastic stuff.
6 MARK WRIGHT
Wright was only 18 when he arrived at the Dell and the Saints were flying high at the top of the table under manager Lawrie McMenemy. He made his debut for the club in a 3–1 win over Leeds United at Elland Road on 17 April 1982, a game which saw two Saints legends, Kevin Keegan and David Armstrong, score the goals. A winner through and through. He played for England 45 times, and only lost six. After leaving Saints for Derby County, the Future England Captain went on to Liverpool, captaining them to FA Cup success in 1992, and scored for England in the 1990 World Cup. And he learned it all at The Dell, becoming the best centre half Saints ever had.
5 STEVE WILLIAMS
Williams started out as an apprentice with Southampton, having been a product of the Saints’ London Selection Centre and joining the club straight from school. He turned professional in 1975 and made his debut aged 17 on 6 April 1976, in a 1–0 victory away to local rivals, Portsmouth. And like Le Tissier, he was another of a lengthy list of Saints who should have played more at international level.
His vision and passing saw fans vote him Player of the Year in his first full season and earn him England Under-21 caps. At Saints, he played alongside Ball, whom he succeeded as team captain, leading Saints to an FA Cup semi-final in 1984 and runners-up in the old First Division. At his peak, Williams was transferred to Arsenal for a club record £550,000, but he was struck by injuries.