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7 Of The Best Players to Ever Play For Southampton

Podcast Blog Post 11

7: Alan Shearer

1988-92, 158 apps, 43 goals

Silly bugger, if only he had stayed with Saints, who knows what he might have achieved in his career? But anybody who marks their professional debut with a hat-trick, as Shearer did against Arsenal in 1988, is likely to prove something special, and so it was with the lad who used to clean the boots at The Dell.

Shearer was only 17 on his debut and he matured at Saints until sold to newly promoted Blackburn for a then British record £3.5m – but it was still a bargain. And he refused to join Manchester United, which amused everybody at the time but Sir Alex Ferguson.

6: Peter Shilton

1982-87, 242 apps

Did you know that Shilts earned more caps for England playing for Southampton than any other of his clubs? (And yes, that includes Forest). At Leicester City, he actually scored against Saints, and for Forest played against Saints in the 1979 League Cup final, before coming to his senses and leaving the former European champions to join Southampton in 1982.

In the McMenemy all-stars team, Shilton reached an FA Cup semi-final and finished runner-up in the old First Division. There’s not much else to say about Shilton: Saints had England’s No 1 at his peak and during our best ever league campaigns. No coincidence there. 

5: Terry Paine 

1956-74, 811 apps, 187 goals

“A fluke I think. It was a punt by Campbell Forsyth and as its coming, I read it – everybody might miss it. I’ve got on my bike early and it’s bounced. It’s bounced over the top of them and I just head it and stick it in the back of the net.” There have been many more spectacular goals in Southampton’s history but few more significant as Paine’s header that earned a 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient, thus elevating them to the old First Division for the first time in 1966.

Paine was already an England regular; about to appear in the World Cup finals and, as a Hampshire boy, he had remained loyal to Saints. 

He went on to win ten caps for England and to break all club records, making 811 appearances. He was a superb winger, who could land a ball on a sixpence.

4: Alan Ball

1976-82, 234 apps, 13 goals

Channon, Keegan, Ball… It still amazes some people that Southampton had such a stellar line-up three decades ago. Football and fun was their creed – with racing thrown in.

McMenemy used to joke that training sessions were built around the horses for their benefit. Ball loved the club so much he had two spells as a player, and then returned as manager. He first joined in 1976 from Arsenal, despite offers from several top-flight clubs. “I reckon McMenemy and myself were the only two people convinced I’d done the right thing,” he said in his autobiography. But he helped to get Saints promoted, missing just one of 42 games in 1977-78, and bringing on the silky skills and vision of Steve Williams. The second spell were the magic C, K and B years when Saints topped the old First Division for the first time. 

He left, aged nearly 38, only to return as manager, bring Le Tissier back into the team (who had fallen foul of Ian ‘Dunderhead’ Branfoot) and save Saints from relegation. Apart from Ted Bates, no other player/manager had such an impact on Saints. And while he is claimed by Everton, he was also one of ours, watching Saints against Charlton the weekend before he died, aged 61. The turn out for his funeral at Winchester Cathedral was immense.

3: Ron Davies

1966-72, 277 apps, 153 goals

When Sir Matt Busby was asked for his opinion on Ron Davies, the response was simple: “The finest centre forward in Europe.”

Davies was twice top scorer in the old First Division during the 60s and his tally of 37 league goals for Saints in 1966-67 has not been bettered since. Between 1966-69, he scored 90 times in 123 league games. That quote from Busby came in August 1969 on the back of a stunning 4-1 victory for Saints over his United side, with Davies getting all four.

As a result United lodged a then-massive £200,000 bid, which was turned down by the Southampton board. A big but amiable giant, Davies was useful on the ground, but it was in the air where he inflicted most damage, although in Terry Paine and John Sydenham he was lucky to have two fine crossers of the ball. He also had a neat little sideline in the days before meg-bucks pay packets: he was a talented artist and his caricatures of his teammates would be sold in the club shop and appear in The Echo.

2: Mick Channon

1966-82, 602 apps, 228 goals 

Channon was the backbone of the club in the 1970s. He was there for the FA Cup Final in 1976, the first European excursions and gained 48 caps for England in his golden period of 1972-77. His arm waving, windmill goal celebration was copied by every boy on Southampton’s playgrounds, and his permanent enthusiasm and straight talking wed him to fans. He was Saints’ top scorer for seven consecutive seasons and his testimonial two days after the Cup Final sparked jubilant pitch invasions as a wildly over-packed Dell continued the weekend celebrations – it was one of the most special nights at The Dell. Channon was to move to Man City the following season but returned to The Dell for three more years in the top flight. He may love horses but he still passionately loves the club. And he is adored back.

Finally Southampton Football Club’s greatest ever player.

Saints' Greatest Ever Player: Mathew Le Tissier

1986-2002, 541 apps, 210 goals

Saints are known for three types of player: old pros at the end of their career (Osgood, Rodrigues, George, Watson), the Academy kids sold on to balance books (Walcott, Bridge, Shearer, Oxlade-Chamberlain) and the loyal one-team players, of which Matthew Le Tissier was the biggest. The boy from Guernsey was simply Saints’ biggest ever class act. He could have gone to Spurs (or half a dozen other leading clubs) but stayed at Saints, a priceless act of loyalty that undoubtedly saved the club from relegation several times over. He missed only one penalty in his entire career, scored extraordinary goals (just ask Newcastle fans) and, like Channon, played for fun with a huge smile.

Work-ethic managers like Branfoot missed the point: scared managers like Glenn Hoddle daren’t risk him for England, but smart managers, like Ball, told his players to fetch the ball and just put it at Tiss’s feet. He was repaid many times over. He was Le God, revered by fans and the last goal ever scored at the much-loved Dell was inevitably one of his specials – twisting impossibly to volley the ball into the corner in a 3-2 defeat of Arsenal. Simply the best

He is The Football Hours greatest Saints player.

If you do not agree with any of the picks and wish to create your own seven of the best Southampton players. 

Tweet @thefootballhour using the #7OTBSAINTS with your selections.