When were Southampton last in the Championship?
A squall of boos bounced around St Mary’s but it scarcely grew above a grumble given the distinct lack of spectators.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was one of the few Saints fans that stuck around for the confirmation of the inevitable, as Southampton’s Premier League relegation was sealed with a limp 2-0 loss to Fulham on Saturday. The hosts managed one shot on target in a display which didn’t warrant the smattering of support it received.
Sunak, who supposedly cherishes an 18th birthday card signed by the Southampton squad of 1997/98, will be able to remember a time when the Saints weren’t skulking around the bottom half of the Premier League.
Yet, for those with hazier or more selective memories, here’s everything you need to know about Southampton’s previous stint in the second tier.
Southampton were last subjected to the circuitous maze of the Championship during the 2011/12 season. Incidentally, the first match which Nigel Adkins’ side played that year was against Leeds United – a fixture that may well be repeated unless Sam Allardyce can haul the Yorkshire outfit to safety.
With Rickie Lambert plundering 31 goals across all competitions, supplied by the fleet feet of a 23-year-old Adam Lallana, Southampton won six of their first seven matches, flying to the summit of the second tier.
The spine of the team that Mauricio Pochettino would mould in later years already existed, with Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin fixtures of the midfield while Jose Fonte dutifully marshalled the backline.
The Saints endured a wobble over the festive period but never dropped outside the division’s top two. Reading ultimately pipped Southampton to the title by a single point but Adkins’ side managed to hold off West Ham’s late charge to return to the Premier League. Incredibly, it was Southampton’s second successive promotion after finishing as League One runners-up in 2011.
Before this year’s exit, Southampton had been relegated from the Championship more recently than the Premier League. The Saints dropped into the third tier of the English footballing pyramid in 2009, four years after propping up the top flight.
Going into the final day of the 2004/05 Premier League campaign, no team had officially joined the Championship – it was the first time since the competition’s inception that the fate of three clubs would be decided at the end of ten simultaneous sets of 90 minutes.
Two weeks after resigning from Portsmouth, Harry Redknapp joined south coast rivals Southampton in December. Had the transfer specialist steered the Saints to victory against Manchester United on the final day, they would have avoided the drop. As it turned out, the season was remembered for West Bromwich Albion’s miraculous escape, securing survival despite sitting bottom of the division on Christmas Day.
Redknapp was the third permanent manager Southampton turned to during the campaign after parting ways with Paul Sturrock in August and cutting Steve Wigley’s reign mercilessly short. Just as the class of 2023 discovered, the managerial upheaval did not save Southampton.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey & Toby Cudworth discuss the possibility of Neymar joining Newcastle, Jude Bellingham’s decision on his future and Lionel Messi leaving PSG.
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