The Premier League result of the year occurred on Saturday. Southampton defeated visiting Sunderland by an 8-0 scoreline. Yes, not a typo, the final score was 8-0.
For many all over the world, a scoreline like that is nothing short of amazing. Up until last season, there were very few who knew of Southampton FC. Besides being in the Premier League from time to time, Southampton was just another English soccer club which the league giants fed on.
The Southampton FC Academy has produced several star players. This past summer, England Internationals Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Calum Chambers (Arsenal) and Adam Lallana (Liverpool) became the next star players to have began their career with Southampton before leaving for Premier League giants.
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The three young stars join a list of Southampton FC Academy standouts who have left the club for bright careers. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) are among the Premier League’s best examples of the club’s superb Academy. The biggest name to come out of Southampton though, is Real Madrid and Welsh Star Gareth Bale. Bale made his debut for the senior side at the age of sixteen and left the club for Tottenham in 2007, with the rest being history.
As always, this past summer was no exception. The clubs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, left for Tottenham, with many of the clubs stars following him out the door. With the 2014 summer transfer window only a month old, the club had sold five of its starting eleven from the previous season.
Many pundits in England and all over the world had Southampton marked for relegation. The club had performed its expected task. Develop young players, sell to bigger clubs, rebuild. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. It was the expected, and almost certain course of business that the club had practiced for years.
Things changed this summer though; Southampton is no longer a little fish in a big pond. The club is quickly becoming a big fish in a quickly-shrinking pond. Bringing in former Dutch International Ronald Koeman changed the club’s standard philosophy. With a playing career which includes stints at PSV and Barcelona, Koeman brought with him a wealth of experience. Having left Dutch Eredivisie power Feyenoord after leading the club to a second-place finish and a UEFA Europa League spot, Koeman came to Southampton with a major rebuilding project on his hands.
With a haul of £88.6 million, Koeman had funds to spend. The acquisition of Eredivisie stars Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle gave the club a much-needed boost. Also joining the club was Irish international Shane Long and English International Fraser Forster.
Holding on to the clubs other stars was also a large task. Convincing Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis and Jay Rodriguez to remain with the club showed the clubs change in philosophy. Southampton finished the summer with an arguably improved roster, and £30.7 million in profit from the summer transfers.
The club will finish this game-week in third place. A Europa League spot is expected at this stage, but is it enough? Southampton has already proven that they can compete with the big boys of English soccer. Over the years, many clubs have surged to the top half of the Premier League table, then fallen by the wayside just as fast.
With the continued performance of Southampton this season, could a Champions League berth be on the cards? Arsenal and Liverpool are both struggling while Chelsea and Manchester City are both beatable. Could it happen? Can the Saints of Southampton go marching right into the Champions League? They just might.
The club has proven this season, that it’s not the players that make the club, it’s the club that makes the players. Being pillaged, regrouping and continuing on without missing a beat is the Southampton way. The supporters have known the strength of their club from day one.
The team sent out a clear message on Saturday; winning 8-0 is no fluke. The little club that can, no longer the development club. Southampton are nearing the top of the English Soccer Mountain. A mountain, that the club will fight for and never give up on. The Saints will indeed go marching in; where they will stop, no one knows.