As of Thursday 24th February 2011, Southampton Football Club find themselves 5th place in the Npower League 1 table. Just a little under 8 years ago, they had placed 8th in the Premier League, runners-up in the F.A. Cup and were to be competing in the UEFA Cup in a shiny new £30million stadium. So, where did it all go wrong?
After a fairy-tale ending to 103 years of football at the Dell, with club hero Matt Le Tissier scoring a sensational volley to seal a 3-2 victory over Arsenal, the club were to move into the new 32,000 seater St. Mary’s Stadium. Things started slowly at the new ground but picked up to see Saints finish 11th in the 2001/02 season under the guidance of Gordan Strachan. Things got even better the following season with an 8th place finish and an F.A. Cup runners-up medal, but this was to be the beginning of a rapid fall from grace for the club.
The 2004/05 season saw a struggling Southampton acquire a certain Harry Redknapp from local rivals Portsmouth. In addition to this, Rugby World Cup winner Sir Clive Woodward was employed as ‘Technical Director/Performance Director/Director of Football’ on a multi-million pound contract from which no benefit was ever seen. Despite the big-name investment, Southampton FC were relegated from the Premier League on 15th May 2005 after a total of 27 years in the top flight of English football. Needless to say things didn’t get any better with Harry Redknapp returning to Portsmouth in November of the same year.
After a few seasons of Championship football, Chairman Rupert Lowe’s money-grabbing strategy of selling off the best young players rising from the clubs prestigious academy to line his own pockets caught up with him. The sales of Wayne Bridge, James Beattie, Kevin Davies, Kenwyne Jones, Andrew Surman, David McGoldrick, Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale came to a total sum of £45million.
With £30million of debt, blamed on the new stadium, on 23rd April 2009 Southampton FC went into administration. The Football League gave the club the following ultimatum:
“If you stay up this season, you will be deducted 10 points this season [ensuring relegation].”
“If you are relegated this season, you will be deducted 10 points next season.”
The club were relegated that season and therefore, providing they could find a buyer to keep them running, would start the following season on minus 10.
Part 2 coming later this week...