On April 23rd 2009, Southampton Football Club’s parent company went into administration. Second from bottom of the Championship, the immediate future looked incredibly dark for the biggest club south of London. Two and a half months later, on June 8th, a German-Swiss businessman named Markus Liebherr bought the club out, bringing in no-nonsense Italian banker Nicola Cortese as chairman.
Beginning life in the third tier for the first time since 1960, Southampton’s first signing under Liebherr and new manager Alan Pardew was 25-year-old Ipswich Town left-back Dan Harding, who joined on a free transfer. Last Sunday, August 18th 2013, the Saints broke their transfer record for the third time in a row when they brought in Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, an Italian international striker who in two seasons at Roma scored 27 goals in 55 appearances in Serie A.
Truly, the progress of the Hampshire club has been impressive, and for the fans it has come at just the right time – that of local bitter rivals Portsmouth’s spectacular drop through the leagues. In their first season post-administration, the Saints finished in 7th place, their ten deducted points away from a comfortable playoff position.
Pardew was quickly dismissed, some will say unfairly, and with players like the club’s first Brazilian player Guly do Prado, new youth academy sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and high-scoring striker Rickie Lambert in the wings, the following season saw Southampton comfortably achieve automatic promotion to the Championship behind Brighton.
Somehow, the next season was even more of a success, and with Jack Cork, Jos Hooiveld, and Billy Sharp added to the ever-improving squad, they led for most of the season until a few poor results in the final weeks allowed Reading to take the crown. Still, Southampton were back where they belonged – amongst the English elite.
Back in the top flight, and now in a somewhat controversial fully red shirt, Southampton continued to surprise critics (not least Mark Lawrenson!) with their unrivalled fight and desire, assisted by their always overbearing fans on the road. Knowing that to stay in the Premier League a slew of high-profile signings were required, Cortese and manager Nigel Adkins spent no less than £26 million on new recruits, with Uruguayan playmaker Gastón Ramírez at the top of the pile (at least in terms of expenditure).
The team quickly set out to show their intent in the Premier League, which was not just to survive but to thrive and cause some upsets: keeping in mind they’d been promoted twice in a row, meaning that the majority of their starting lineups were half composed of Championship and even League One players, the Saints very nearly beat reigning champions Man City on the opening day of the season, and almost did the same against Man Utd a couple of weeks later.
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