The Southampton decade in review
Two promotions, two cup finals, relegation battles, eight permanent managers, surviving a 10-point deduction and unearthing numerous gems; it’s fair to say that the past decade has been far from boring.
If you were to tell any Saints fan what the next 10 years would have in store after they lost 2-1 to Colchester in League One on the 28th of December 2009, it’s safe to say they would’ve bitten your hand off.
It’s that time of the year to reflect, not just on the past 12 months but the last 120, to see how much we’ve experienced together and how far the club has come from a position that was looking extremely difficult.
In this piece, I’ve put my top 10 matches of the past 10 years, my top 10 goals scored by Saints and my team of the decade.
Let’s start with my top 10 matches that have been etched into my memory for either the quality of the 90 minutes from a Saints perspective or the consequence of that particular result. Starting with number 10:
10. Southampton 6-1 Aston Villa: 16th May 2015
You might think that a 6-1 win in the Premier League would make this list anyway – but this match was even more special due to an unbelievable two minutes and 56 seconds.
I am of course talking about Sadio Mane and his record-breaking hat-trick which gave Saints a 3-0 lead inside 16 minutes.
Robbie Fowler held the previous record for fastest ever hat-trick after striking his in four minutes and 33 seconds against Arsenal in 1994.
With Fowler having held the record for over two decades, few thought it would ever be beaten, but that was until a Spring afternoon at St Mary’s.
Mane made the most of some dismal Villa defending coupled with some help from his team mates to reap the rewards of breaking this long-standing record.
This result also ensured that Saints finished in seventh place in the Premier League in Ronald Koeman’s first season in charge.
9. Manchester United 3-2 Southampton: 26th February 2017
It seems strange to put a defeat on this list but the occasion of a major cup final makes it one of the days to remember.
This was only Saints’ second appearance in a League Cup final, the previous coming in 1979, and their first major cup final since losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup in 2003.
And it was all going so well, Claude Puel’s side started brilliantly and had a Manolo Gabbiadini goal wrongly disallowed after just 11 minutes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jess Lingard then gave United a 2-0 lead but Saints’ excellent performance did not fade and extraordinarily came back to level courtesy of more Gabbiadini brilliance.
But it wasn’t to be as Ibrahimovic gave Jose Mourinho’s team the lead again late on to cruelly take the game away from Saints.
Had it not been for a dodgy linesman, Saints may well have recorded a famous win and their first ever League Cup triumph which would’ve surely made this match my number one.
But it wasn’t to be and the ultimate heartache that Saints fans were left with after this match leaves this match further down the list in the ultimate ‘what could have been’ occasion.
8. Swansea City 0-1 Southampton: 8th May 2018
The ultimate relegation play-off.
This was the penultimate match of the 2017/18 season which in truth was a pretty poor one for Saints.
Mark Hughes’ side started the day just outside the relegation zone on goal difference – above Swansea who were just inside the bottom three.
Saints had a much better goal difference but knew that they faced champions Manchester City on the final day while the Swans would play already relegated Stoke – so both teams knew that a win was vital.
This game was one of the tensest matches I’ve ever watched with every little moment so crucial in deciding which side would be playing Premier League football next season.
The scores were still level going into the final 20 minutes before a Saints corner was kept alive by Charlie Austin before Gabbiadini scored the rebound to send the visiting fans into raptures.
7. Carlisle United 1-4 Southampton: 28th March 2010
The earliest match on this list came in late March of 2010. If you just looked at the result without knowing the context of the game – you would wonder why a 4-1 win over League One opposition in March makes the list.
However, this was the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the chance for Saints to collect their first domestic silverware since 1976 when they won the FA Cup.
Despite many people belittling this competition, this final was a big opportunity for Saints to put their recent financial woes behind them and start looking to a more promising and exciting future.
The importance was illustrated by the 44,000 fans that travelled up from the south coast to watch the game, the most any club had sent to the new Wembley Stadium at that time.
Almost a quarter of Southampton’s entire population were estimated to have been at Wembley, which showed that it was an occasion that underlined the potential turning of the tide along the Hampshire coast.
They also equalled the largest winning margin in the history of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final with Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Papa Waigo and Michail Antonio the scorers for Alan Pardew’s side.
6. Southampton 8-0 Sunderland: 18th October 2014
What a remarkable 90 minutes of football this was.
No one could’ve predicted how good Ronald Koeman’s side would be or how bad Gus Poyet’s team would perform.
One of the most bizarre own goals you will ever see from Santiago Vergini gave Saints the lead before Graziano Pelle and Jack Cork gave the side a 3-0 half-time lead.
It got even better after the break as Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Victor Wanyama all added to the scoreline along with two more Sunderland own goals.
This was also the joint second biggest winning margin in Premier League history – although another match at St Mary’s later in the decade equalled the largest winning margin but we won’t talk about that one!
5. Southampton 4-0 Coventry: 28th April 2012
This game propelled Southampton back into the Premier League after a seven-year exile in some style.
At the start of the day, just two points separated second placed Southampton and third placed West Ham as they went into their respective final matches of the season.
The Hammers won their game 2-1 against Hull which meant that Saints just needed a point from their meeting with Coventry.
Goals from Billy Sharp, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana gave Saints an emphatic win to create bedlam at St Mary’s with the pitch flooded with red and white Southampton fans – one of the images of the decade to remember.
This season was about as good as it could’ve been for Nigel Adkins’ side as not only did they return to England’s top flight but arch rivals Portsmouth also got relegated to the third division.
4. Southampton 4-0 Arsenal: 26th December 2015
Maybe it shows how good the last 10 years have been that a 4-0 win over Arsenal only makes my number four.
Boxing Day football is always one of the best days on the footballing calendar anyway, but the 2015 Boxing Day exceeded all expectations.
All the odds were pointing towards a Gunners victory that would’ve sent them top of the Premier League against a Southampton side who were without a win since the beginning of November.
But that’s why we love football – because you can’t predict it!
Cuco Martina gave Ronald Koeman’s side the lead with a stunning striker before a Shane Long double and one from Jose Fonte secured the rout.
3. Portsmouth 0-4 Southampton: 24th September 2019
These two great rivals only played each other four times across the past 10 years and the less said about the first three the better.
However, earlier this year Saints were drawn to visit Fratton Park in the third round of the League Cup and the seven year wait for a South Coast derby was about to end.
And any early nerves surrounding the occasion were put to bed when Danny Ings – a man possessed that evening – gave Saints the lead after 20 minutes.
Another from Ings along with strikes from Cedric and Nathan Redmond gave the side a superb victory to get their first win at Fratton park since 1984.
This win would probably have been higher up the list had it not been for the fact that there was a clear gulf in class between the two squads due to their respective league differences.
2. Southampton 2-1 Inter Milan: 3rd November 2016
I found It very difficult to choose between my top two but have gone with the win over Inter at number two.
Seven years prior to this meeting, Saints were in administration in League One while Jose Mourinho was leading Inter Milan to Champions League glory.
So this match was evidence for how far the club had come in the first half of the decade by beating the once great Italians in the Europa League group stage.
Despite falling behind to a Mauro Icardi goal, Claude Puel’s team turned the tables in five second-half minutes through a Virgil van Dijk strike and a Yuto Nagatomo own-goal that gave Saints a memorable victory.
These three points put Southampton in a great position to qualify for the knock-out stages but were ultimately pipped in a gut-wrenching draw with Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
1. Liverpool 0-1 Southampton: 25th January 2017
My number one is of course the game that sent Saints to the League Cup final with a nerve-wracking but ultimately famous victory at Anfield.
Saints had a 1-0 advantage from the first-leg at St Mary’s thanks to Nathan Redmond’s cool finish that gave the side something to hold onto in Liverpool.
But there were countless times where it looked like the Reds were going to break Saints hearts, especially in the second-half, as they missed numerous chances to level the tie.
Most notably Fraser Forster acrobatically hooked an Emre Can shot off the line while Daniel Sturridge also wasted two big chances.
But the hero was to be Shane Long who finished convincingly from Josh Sims’ bursting run and pass to send them into their first final of this competition since 1979.
Long’s finish sparked incredible scenes in the away section of Anfield – a moment that makes it stick in your mind when you look back at the decade.
Honourable mentions go to Plymouth Argyle 1-3 Southampton: 2nd May 2011 which effectively achieved promotion from League One for Saints and Southampton 3-2 Liverpool: 20th March 2016 where a second-half turnaround snatched a dramatic victory.
Now for my top 10 goals of the decade which was also very difficult to narrow down as there has been some spectacular strikes in red and white; my number 10 is:
10. James Ward-Prowse VS Spurs: 9th March 2019
Prowsey’s superb free-kick last season gave Saints a dramatic 2-1 win over Spurs that ultimately propelled the side to Premier League safety.
9. Adam Lallana VS Hull: 9th November 2013
There are some great solo efforts in this list that consists for some exemplary dribbling; Lallana’s one against Hull is a fine example of this as he picked the ball up from deep, beat numerous defenders before a calm finish.
8. Moussa Djenepo VS Sheffield United: 14th September 2019
The most recent goal in this list was scored by Djenepo earlier this season and is rather similar to Lallana’s. He also picked the ball up from deep, showed excellent skill and strength to cut through the United defence and superbly finished into the bottom corner.
7. Rickie Lambert VS Chelsea: 30th March 2013
The second and last free-kick to make my list and it’s another set piece specialist who got it. Lambert’s gets the edge over Ward-Prowse’s because it was further out and looked less likely to be scored when it was awarded.
6. Jay Rodriguez VS Bournemouth: 18th December 2016
The ball sat up invitingly for Rodriguez on a cold afternoon in Bournemouth as he unleashed a half-volley into the top left-hand corner of the net
5. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg VS Brighton: 17th September 2018
The Saints skipper teed the ball up from 35-yards out and let rip on an unstoppable effort that gave the Brighton ‘keeper no chance of stopping.
4. Dani Osvaldo VS Manchester City: 7th December 2013
Without doubt, this is the one moment that Dani Osvaldo is remembered for after a dismal spell for the club record signing who scored just three goals in 13 appearances. However, his final goal of the three was a brilliant one as he showed high-class control to open up a shooting opportunity on the corner of the area and provided a finish to match with a delicate lofted effort that evaded the City goalkeeper.
3. Sofiane Boufal VS West Brom: 21st October 2017
Who can forget Boufal’s sublime individual goal against West Brom in 2017? The Morocco international picked the ball up deep in his own half and evaded several challenges before curling into the bottom corner to give Saints the win.
2. Graziano Pelle VS QPR: 27th September 2014
Pelle’s goal against QPR is unlike any other in this list. This is as close to an overhead kick as Saints got this decade as he flicked the ball up with his back to goal and lashed a volley past the helpless Rob Green.
1. Cuco Martina VS Arsenal: 26th December 2015
It was tough – but I’ve gone with Martina’s stunning strike against Arsenal as my number one. Maybe it’s the fact that it was on an overall brilliant day for the club as they downed the Gunners 4-0 but it was a spectacular goal nonetheless as he curled the ball home from 30 yards.
Honourable mentions go to Shane Long’s long-range strike VS Aston Villa: 16th May 2015 along with Long’s record-breaking goal VS Watford: 23rd April 2019 after just 7.69 secondsand Victor Wanyama’s brilliant effort VS Hull: 1st November 2014.
Finally, we’ve got my team of the decade which contained some difficult section dilemmas; most notably Forster or Davis, Bertrand or Shaw, Fonte or Alderweirald and whether to put two up front.
Here’s what I went with:
Nathaniel Clyne Virgil Van Dijk Jose Fonte Luke Shaw
Morgan Schneiderlin Victor Wanyama
Sadio Mane Adam Lallana Dusan Tadic
- Fraser Forster
- Ryan Bertrand
- Toby Alderweirald
- James Ward-Prowse
- Steven Davis
- Jay Rodriguez
- Graziano Pelle
All-in-all, the last 10 years have been thoroughly enjoyable for Saints – even if the last couple of seasons have been a struggle – and hopefully we can look for more bright times ahead over the next decade.