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Southampton - From administration to jubilation

April 23, 2009 was a dark day for Southampton Football Club.

Handed a 10-point deduction following their parent company going into administration, it condemned them to relegation and a season in League One for the 2009-2010 season.

Fast forward two years and that is just a distant memory as the high flying Saints continue their march back to the top flight.

The catalyst for the transformation was the takeover by Markus Liebherr, a German-born Swiss billionaire.

After paying around £15 million to clear Southampton's debts and take ownership of the club and its assets, including a training ground and stadium which are both of a Premier League standard, it is thought Liebherr pulled off one of the shrewdest pieces of football investments to be seen in recent years.

Star signing

Liebherr instantly made his intentions clear, making transfer funds available for then manager Alan Pardew to splash in League One; earning them the label of the Football League's Manchester City. The star signing was Rickie Lambert (pictured) from Bristol Rovers for a fee of £1 million.

In Lambert, the Saints have one of the most prolific goalscorers in the lower leagues. With 21 league goals in League One, he played a major part in not only their promotion but securing the clubs first trophy since 1976 when they defeated Carlisle United 4–1 at Wembley, to claim the Football League Trophy.

Despite the club having looked to have turned the corner, it wasn’t all plain sailing as the board decided to sack Alan Pardew in August 2010 after just three league games to the bewilderment of many fans. Nigel Adkins was announced as the new manager, joining from Scunthorpe United.

Under the guidance of Adkins, the Saints achieved a club record of clean sheets in one season. Adkins also guided the side to promotion into the Championship, earning his third League One promotion in his managerial career.

Southampton have made a blistering start to this season whilst breaking records in the process. Winning their first four games for the first time in their history and taking 15 points from a possible 18 secured their best start for 75 years and has seen them soar to the top of the table.

Youth academy 

The future also looks bright for the south coast outfit with a highly successful youth academy that can already boast the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gareth Bale and Wayne Bridge as success stories, not forgetting the legend that is Alan Shearer.

Adam Lallana is the latest prodigy to come through the system and is the name on the lips of many of the Saints faithful; he has been at the club since a young age and has become an integral part of the side and despite being heavily linked with moves elsewhere, he continues to stay committed to the Hampshire club.

The club already has a stadium which is more than capable of hosting Premier League fixtures. St Mary’s is a fantastic ground, and with gates regularly surpassing the 25,000 mark; they have a following that would put some clubs in the Premier League to shame.

With gates like that in League One and the Championship, it is clear that the club has the backing and support to make a long-awaited return to the Premier League.

It may only be October, and with only 10 games gone its still relatively early days but with the prospect of promotion to the top tier of English football to look forward to at the end of the season its no surprise that Saints fans are full of optimism and buoyant about the rest of the season.

This optimism is also shared by the bookmakers with odds having been slashed to just 3/1 to win the league and 5/4 to gain promotion, making them second favourites behind West Ham.

So the question that remains to be answered is can the Saints go marching on? The signs are looking positive.

By George Chambi


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