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 –
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12 IVAN GOLAC
Golac was one of Southampton’s first foreign imports. Ask any Saints fan over 40 as to their favourite overseas signing and it’s a fair bet that Ivan Golac would be near the top of the list. McMenemy largely built his reputation by building successful and entertaining sides that were packed with experienced players. But one of his most successful signings was a player from Yugoslavia, in an age when overseas players were almost unheard of. The year of 1978 would prove to be a watershed in Golac’s career. He had reached the age of 28, when Yugoslavia’s Communist authorities would allow players to move abroad; it was also the year in which English football’s restrictions on foreign players were lifted.
Golac was an instant hit. His play was skillful yet aggressive and attacking, taking the role of overlapping full back to a new level. He played in the 1979 League Cup final, losing to Brian Clough’s Forest, 3-2, and played alongside Keegan, Channon and Ball. In February 1982, he netted the best of his four goals, against West Bromwich Albion, an unstoppable 25-yard half-volley. McMenemy described the shot as “the sweetest strike he’d ever seen, like Concorde taking off”.
11 STEVE MORAN
Moran was one of the finest strikers that Southampton has possessed. He had a knack of scoring some crucial goals for the club. Some of his goals were memorable – a late strike at Anfield in 1981 to hand Saints a win at then invincible Liverpool, his hat-trick in the 8-2 demolition of Coventry in 1984 and, above all, his injury-time winner at Fratton Park in the fourth round of the 1984 FA Cup.
Moran attended Prices School in Fareham and appeared regularly for his school team, where he was spotted by scouts. He signed for Southampton in August 1979 and made his debut as a substitute in a 4–1 home win against Manchester City in January 1980, scoring with his very first touch of the ball. He was blessed with having Channon and Keegan amongst his team mates and scored 18 goals from 30 starts in his first full season. Voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1982.
10 DANNY WALLACE
Wallace made his debut aged only 16 years and 313 days on 29 November 1980 at Old Trafford, thus becoming the youngest player to be picked for Southampton. Small, compact and lightning quick, Danny wowed Dell crowds with his pace and superb individual goals. He burst into national prominence with both goals in the first match televised live from The Dell against Liverpool in March 1984. His first was an overhead scissors-kick and for the second, he threw himself in front of Alan Hansen to head home a superb cross from Mark Dennis. The first goal was named Goal of the Season.
Danny’s fine form continued after that Liverpool game, and in April 1984, both he and Moran scored hat-tricks in an 8-2 defeat of Coventry City. His career culminated with him being picked to play for England and scoring in his only appearance in a 4-0 victory, over Egypt in January 1986. He eventually went to Man United for £1.2 million, then a record fee for a Southampton player, but in 1996 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
9 DAVID ARMSTRONG
Armstrong joined Southampton in August 1981 and scored 15 league goals in his first season alongside Kevin Keegan, as the Saints led the table for most of the first three months of 1982 before finishing seventh. He came close to a league title medal again in 1984, as the Saints finished runners-up to Liverpool in the league and were also semi-finalists in the FA Cup.
Aged 27, he was in his prime and Saints got six great seasons from the freescoring bald midfield dynamo. He was Southampton’s Player of the Season in 1983-84, and he also won three England caps, including the last home international, against Wales in 1984, when he lined up with Saints’ colleagues Shilton and Mark Wright.
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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.
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4 RON DAVIES
When Sir Matt Busby was asked for his opinion on Ron Davies, the response was simple: “The finest centre forward in Europe.” Ted Bates had spent a then club record £55,000 for Davies as the club prepared to face their inaugural season in the top division. Already an established Welsh international, Davies scored 12 goals in 10 consecutive League games, and ended that season having scored 37 goals in 41 games, more than any other player in the division. The club retained their place in the division. The first of his 134 League goals for Southampton was on 27 August 1966 at Bloomfield Road, as his club beat hosts Blackpool 3–2.
That quote from Busby came in August 1969 on the back of a stunning 4-1 victory for Saints over his United side, with Davies getting all four. As a result United lodged a massive £200,000 bid which was turned down by the Southampton board. A big but amiable giant, Davies was useful on the ground, but it was in the air where he inflicted most damage, although in Terry Paine and John Sydenham he was lucky to have two fine crossers of the ball.
3 TERRY PAINE
Paine began his career as a youth player with local club Winchester City, before signing professional terms with Southampton in 1956. He quickly became a regular for the team as a right-sided winger, and was also on occasion played on the left wing, in the centre of midfield, or up front. In 1960 he was a part of the squad which won the club’s only Third Division title.
There have been many spectacular goals in Southampton’s history but few more significant as Paine’s header that earned a 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient, thus elevating them to the old First Division for the first time in 1966. Paine was already an England regular, about to appear in the World Cup finals and, as a Hampshire boy, had remained loyal to Saints. He went on to win ten caps for England and to break all club records, making 811 appearances. He was a superb winger, who could land a ball on a sixpence.
2 MICK CHANNON
Channon was the backbone of the club in the 1970s. He was there for the FA Cup Final in 1976, the first European excursions and gained 48 caps for England in his golden period of 1972-77. His arm waving, windmill goal celebration was copied by every boy on Southampton’s playgrounds, and his permanent enthusiasm and straight talking wed him to fans. He was Saints’ top scorer for seven consecutive seasons and his testimonial two days after the Cup Final sparked jubilant pitch invasions as a wildly overpacked Dell continued the weekend celebrations – it was one of the special nights at The Dell. Channon was to move to Man City the following season but returned to The Dell for three more years in the top flight.
1 MATTHEW LE TISSIER
The boy from Guernsey was simply Saints’ biggest ever class act. He could have gone to Spurs but stayed, a priceless act of loyalty that undoubtedly saved the club from relegation several times over. He missed only one penalty, scored extraordinary goals and, like Channon, played for fun with a huge smile. Work-ethic managers like Branfoot missed the point: scared managers like Glenn Hoddle daren’t risk him for England, but smart managers, like Ball, told his players to fetch the ball and put it at Tiss’s feet. He was repaid many times over. He was Le God, revered by fans and the last goal at The Dell was inevitably one of his specials – twisting to volley the ball into the corner in a 3-2 defeat of Arsenal. Simply the best.