Built on Saints
FIVE TIMES SAINTS DEFIED THE ODDS
5. John inspires last-day escape
4th May 2008
Despite a creditable draw at champions-elect West Brom, Southampton found themselves relying on results from elsewhere to maintain their Championship status on the final day of the 2007/08 campaign. Hosting a Sheffield United side with aspirations of securing a play-off place, it was a tall order for Saints, who found themselves a goal down midway through the first half. Backed by a capacity crowd, Marek Saganowski crucially equalised before the interval, and when Stern John fired a shot into the roof of the net, Saints were on course for survival. But that was far from the end of the drama, as John Stead equalised, leaving Saints back in the relegation zone until John struck a priceless winner four minutes later. The striker was later sent off, leading to an unbearable finale filled with tension, but Saints held firm to keep their heads above water, as Pearson’s future employers, Leicester, were relegated instead.
4. Hasenhüttl’s statement start
16th December 2018
When Ralph Hasenhüttl took over at St Mary’s, the club was in a difficult place. Saints were approaching the midpoint in the 2018/19 season with just one win to their name, and were without a home victory in eight months. A 1-0 loss at Cardiff signalled a baptism of fire for the new boss, but his first home match produced an immediate upturn. Visitors Arsenal, unbeaten in 22 matches, were stunned by Danny Ings’s first-half brace, though Henrikh Mkhitaryan twice levelled for the Gunners. With five minutes to go, Shane Long’s floated cross was headed home by Charlie Austin at the far post, as Saints defied all football logic to claim maximum points, prompting a festive hot streak of four wins in seven games to turn around the season and bring a wave of optimism back to St Mary’s.
3. Liverpool succumb to resurgent Saints
20th March 2016
This was the best of Ronald Koeman’s Saints, a team packed with talent consistently knocking on the door of European football. Visitors Liverpool were tied on 44 points, within striking distance of the top six, but first-half goals from Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge left Koeman’s men with a mountain to climb. Saints needed a lifeline and got it when Graziano Pellè was fouled in the box by Martin Skrtel, but Sadio Mané was denied by Simon Mignolet from the penalty spot. Mané had to make amends and duly halved the deficit on 64 minutes, before Pellè curled in a beauty from 20 yards to seemingly claim a point. But there was more to come from Saints, inspired by a crowd who smelled blood, who kept pouring forward and got their reward when Mané burst through to beat Mignolet with a dramatic late winner.
2. Administration to promotion, via Wembley
Saints had suffered some barren years since relegation from the Premier League in 2005, sinking into the third tier for the first time in 49 years. The 2009/10 campaign began on the back foot: deducted 10 points for going into administration, it would take Saints until December to climb out of the League One relegation zone, before a storming end to the season proved there was light at the end of the tunnel. Under new owner Markus Liebherr, Saints reached the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, where Wembley welcomed a sea of red and white and witnessed a dominant display to dismantle Carlisle under the arch. Liebherr’s vision was coming true, and his legacy lived on even after his tragic passing five months later, as Saints celebrated his memory by returning to the Championship the following year.
1. Back in the big time and making waves
Having returned to the Championship, Saints defied the odds by flying through the division at the first time of asking, never dropping out of the top two after a blistering start. Back in the Premier League after seven eventful years away, the priority was survival, but by now the club’s seemingly unstoppable momentum was gathering pace. The arrival of Mauricio Pochettino as manager took the team to new heights, before Ronald Koeman built a squad capable of competing for the top six. Within five years of promotion Saints had finished in the top eight four times, qualified for Europe, beaten Inter Milan and reached a major cup final. What’s more, this was achieved despite the departures of Pochettino, Koeman and numerous key players, as Saints’ recruitment and development of talent became the envy of many clubs across the continent.