Saints top 10: goal scorers
Over the next few weeks as the season restarts, I’m starting a new series on the Saints World website called the Saints top 10, Match of the Day style, where I will be ranking 10 contenders of a particular category.
We will be kick-starting today with the top 10 Saints goal scorers, which proved a satisfying challenge, not just in choosing the top 10 but then ranking the final shortlist.
Although I’ve tried to incorporate players that preceded the Premier League era, it’s worth noting that there is likely to be some degree of recency bias with my ordering.
The players that I’ve had the pleasure of watching live and in the flesh are likely to have a slight edge over certain footballers who I’ve only had the opportunity of seeing clips of.
So without further ado, this is my top 10 Saints goal scorers which I’m sure you’ll all disagree with:
10. Alan Shearer (1988-1992)
There’s no doubt that Alan Shearer’s best work came after he left the south coast, but that’s not to say that he didn’t learn his craft of being the perfect goal scorer at the Dell.
A young striker from Newcastle, Shearer joined the Saints academy in the mid-1980s and broke into the first-team in 1988, coming on as a substitute against Chelsea.
However, it was his full debut that really made people take notice as he scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 triumph over Arsenal – becoming the youngest player at 17 years, 240 days to score a hat-trick in the top division.
In his four years at the club, Shearer scored 43 goals before moving to Blackburn for a then-British record of £3.6 million.
Had Shearer stayed at Southampton, he would surely have surged up this list but his shorter stay limits him to taking up our number 10 spot.
9. Danny Ings (2018-present)
It may seem slightly premature to put Ings in this top 10, especially ahead of someone of Alan Shearer’s quality, but the current number nine has already done a lot to bring smiles back onto Saints faces.
Prior to Ings’ arrival, it had been a while since Southampton had a lethal and reliable centre-forward that would lead the side from the front but the 27-year old would change that.
After joining the Saints on loan in 2018, Ings had a solid first campaign at his boyhood club but rather than being known as a ‘goal scorer’, he turned out to be more of a selfless player who would often come deep and provide for someone else running in behind – this was a large factor in why Nathan Redmond and Shane Long had decent seasons themselves.
However, it would be in the 2019/20 season that people would start to take note of his quality after putting in a sublime set of performances that saw him in real contention for the Premier League Golden Boot.
His campaign really burst into life in the 4-0 thrashing of local rivals Portsmouth where he scored a double as he suddenly couldn’t stop finding the back of the net.
Before the lockdown, Ings had scored 15 league goals, just four short of pacesetter Jamie Vardy, with the only downside being that the season has halted abruptly, denying him of carrying on his excellent form and potentially making his way into the England Euro 2020 squad.
Danny has the potential to move further up this list in years to come if he can keep both his fitness and confidence up which could make him a real cult hero if things continue.
8. Marian Pahars (1999-2006)
Perhaps one of Saints’ best European imports was the relatively unknown Latvian Marian Pahars.
The club agreed a fee with Skonto of around £800,000 in 1999 for Pahars and the first Latvian to play in the Premier League made a superb impact.
In his home debut, he came off the bench to score the crucial equaliser – and almost got a winner – against Blackburn Rovers in a 3–3 draw.
Pahars quickly endeared himself to the Southampton faithful by scoring both goals in Southampton’s ‘Great Escape’ against Everton in 1999 – an achievement that permitted the construction of St Mary’s as a result of their Premier League status being retained.
The ‘Little Latvian’ would go onto score 45 times in 156 appearances for the Saints before departing the club in 2006 as a firm fan favourite.
7. Steve Moran (1979-1986)
Steve Moran was the man that was tasked with leading the line during Southampton’s most successful season in the 1983-84 season where the club finished as First Division runners-up.
Moran would prove to be a prolific goal scorer for the Saints after just falling shy of the 100-goal mark having netted 99 in 229 appearances.
One of those 99 was a memorable one as the then-23-year old scored an injury-time winner in the fourth round of the FA Cup, away to arch-rivals Portsmouth.
The latter part of his career was hampered by a recurring back injury which contributed to his premature departure at Southampton where, if kept fit, he could’ve taken his scoring charts to the next level.
6. Ron Davies (1966-1973)
Now, someone who embodied the term ‘goal scorer’ was Ron Davies who made a habit of scoring goals at Southampton in the 1960s and ‘70s.
The Welsh international was brought into the Saints to help them cope with the demands of top-flight football for the first time having spent a then-club record fee of £55,000.
To say that Davies hit the ground running would be an understatement as he scored 12 goals in 10 consecutive league games and ended his debut campaign on 37 goals from 41 games – a league high for that season.
His first strike came in a 3-2 victory over Blackpool with Davies later describing it as “The ‘keeper came off his line — way out of the box. I was 35 yards out and I couldn’t believe it. I just knocked it over his head”.
The season after, he was joint top scorer with the legend George Best and would later score four times in a match against Manchester United.
Davies was known for his aerial power and his scoring reduced in later years as defenders started to mark him out of the game before injuries further limited his numbers before he joined a select number of players that have played for both south coast clubs as he signed for Portsmouth in 1973.
However, Davies remains one of the greatest goal scorers the club has seen and is fully deserving of his place on the list.
5. James Beattie (1998-2005)
The two players I have at number four and five are pretty interchangeable and it’s incredibly hard to choose between them.
We start with Beattie who was, without a doubt, the most productive striker Southampton had in the early 2000s.
Beattie’s signing was often considered as a throw-in for the transfer that saw Kevin Davies go the other way to Blackburn, but the then-20-year old would go onto prove many people wrong.
His impact was impressive as he earned the club’s Player of the Season award due to helping the Saints successfully battle relegation.
The 2002/03 campaign was arguably his best as he scored 23 league goals which made him the third-highest Premiership scorer as well as the top English goal scorer.
His finest achievement while at the club would be in that same season with his fine form helping the Saints reach the 2003 FA Cup – their first since the triumph in 1976, before narrowly losing 1-0 to Arsenal.
Since then, no other Southampton player has gone close to beating that goal tally in a single season with Danny Ings’ latest attempt foiled by the lockdown.
4. Rickie Lambert (2009-2014)
I’ve given Lambert a slight edge over Beattie purely because of his importance in guiding the club back to the Premier League after a seven-year stint outside of England’s top-flight.
Lambert was signed for just over £1 million with the club having just been relegated to League One and he would prove pivotal in every season of Saints’ ascent to the Premier League.
His first season would see him score an impressive 36 goals in all competitions which also meant that he was the top scorer in England’s top four divisions for the second season running.
The second campaign saw him score 21 times and Saints secure promotion to the Championship before doing even better in the league above, scoring 31 in another promotion season as well as earning the Southampton Fans’ Player of the Season award for the second time in three years.
The question was then posed as to whether he could replicate his success in the hardest league of all, but he answered them immaculately as he scored 15 further goals in his first Premier League season which was joint with Frank Lampard for the highest scoring Englishman.
He scored a memorable goal just minutes into his top flight debut against Manchester City on the opening day that also meant that Lambert joined a select group of players who have scored in all four league divisions.
A stunning free-kick against Chelsea would follow later that year before scoring his 100th Southampton goal against Newcastle.
Saints fans have a lot to thank Lambert for the side going from strength to strength in the past decade and is fully deserving of a top four spot.
3. Terry Paine (1957-1974)
My top three on this list can all be described as club legends, starting with Terry Paine.
Paine’s inclusion in this list is all the more impressive given that he was a wide forward compared to the various out-and-out strikers that he is competing with in this category.
The Winchester-born Saint is Southampton’s longest serving player having featured a whopping 815 times and scored 187 goals in that time, the fourth most in the club’s history.
He may not have the most successful minute-to-goal ratio but there’s no denying that Paine was a spectacular goal scorer in his 17-year stint.
The young winger had a natural talent from the off and wasn’t just a great scorer as he set up countless goals for the likes of Derek Reeves, George O’Brien and later Mick Channon with his ability to ‘land a ball on a sixpence’.
He was also incredibly reliable having been an ‘ever-present’ for a record number of seven seasons.
Paine is also a World Cup winner with England in 1966, having played one match in the 2-0 triumph over Mexico in the group stage – this was even more impressive given Alf Ramsey’s reluctance to use wingers in his line-up.
The now-81-year old was deservedly named Honorary President of Southampton in 2013 and is a true role model to any players looking to make their way into the game.
2. Mick Channon (1965-1977, 1979-1982)
Now, this may be a contentious decision to put Saints’ record goal scorer in at number two, but that just emphasises the quality of my number one.
Mick Channon scored a sensational 227 goals from 607 career outings over the course of his two separate spells at Southampton.
Channon made his debut for the club in 1966 against Bristol Rovers as a raw 17-year old and marked it with what he does best, a goal.
His scoring prowess was emphasised by his league-high tally of 21 in 1974, the same season that saw the Saints relegated to the Second Division.
His most memorable moment at the club would come in 1976 in the famous FA Cup triumph as the side, still in England’s second division, would shock Manchester United 1-0 in the final, with Channon playing a big part in the winning goal.
The Saints actually returned to the top-flight in Channon’s brief absence which paved the way for his return where he continued his superb goal scoring record to consolidate his team in the First Division.
Which just leaves my number one…
1.Matt Le Tissier (1986-2002)
Was there ever any doubt?
And it says a lot that the number one in my list is a man who wasn’t even a natural striker.
‘Le God’ was a simply majestic footballer who made the difficult look very, very easy with his admirable laid-back approach.
Matt became known for his miraculous finishes with highlights including a brilliant skilful run against Blackburn before a stunning finish from 40 yards out that found the top corner and an audacious chip from the edge of the box over Peter Schmeichel.
He also scored a sublime goal against Newcastle as he looped the ball over a couple of defenders before a composed finish as well as a clever free-kick routine against Wimbledon.
In fact, I could list spectacular goal after spectacular goal but we would be here forever otherwise, so all I’d say to anyone who has thus far lived without seeing this is to watch his Premier League goal reel which is one of the finest things available to watch for a football fan.
Penalty kicks also became a trademark having converted 47 of his 48 attempts from the spot.
Le Tissier ended his career in 2002 having scored 209 goals in 540 appearances with his last goal for the club being a memorable one as he scored the final ever goal at the Dell in the victory over Arsenal.
Honourable mentions for the goal scorer category go to Derek Reeves (1954-1962) who scored a club record 44 goals in all competitions (in a single season) while the club were in the third division, Ted Bates (1937-1953) who was better known for his long management spell but also managed to score 64 goals in 216 appearances, Jay Rodriguez who scored 35 goals for theclub and Graziano Pelle (2014-2016) who scored 30 times in two seasons and is perhaps one of the most graceful footballers in this category – all of whom unlucky not to make the top 10.