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Ever Wonder why Southampton are called The Saints?

Joe Prince-Wright explores the origins of how his boyhood club, Southampton, got its nickname of the Saints.

Our ‘Ever Wonder’ series will run throughout the 2022-23 Premier League season and focuses on key stories behind the history, tradition and culture of all 20 Premier League clubs.

[ MORE: Check out our ‘Ever Wonder’ series in full ]

Have you ever sat there and wondered why certain chants became iconic at a club? Why a team has a certain nickname? Why they play in those colors? How they were founded? Yep, us too.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

This season we will be digging deep to tell the stories of the rich history, tradition and culture from around the Premier League and give you the answers to things you want to know more about.

Ever Wonder why Southampton are called The Saints?

A special thanks to Duncan Holley, Southampton FC club historian, for his help with photos and research.

They have a halo on their badge, their fans chant ‘oh when the Saints go Marching in’ and they play at Saint Mary’s Stadium. But have you ever wondered why Southampton are actually nicknamed the Saints? Us too.

As the South Coast club say over and over again: “The Saints: it’s not just a name, it’s who we are.” That motto is plastered all over their home at Saint Mary’s Stadium and they’ve been Saints from the very start.

Okay, let’s go back to the start to explain.

Built on faith from the very start

The club was founded in 1885 by members of Saint Mary’s Church in Southampton. Their original name was Saint Mary’s Young Men’s Association FC and later became Saint Mary’s FC.

As for the City of Southampton, it is synonymous with the Saints but it is also famous for being one of the UK’s biggest ports and it is known the world over for being the place where the Titanic set sail from on its fateful maiden voyage.

Many Southampton locals perished aboard the Titanic and the city was hit incredibly hard by that tragedy, and also by bombing in World War II as St Mary’s Church was almost completely destroyed but was quickly repaired.


A gateway to the world

Due to its status as a major port, over many generations it has been described as the UK’s Gateway to the World and here’s an interesting fact for you: one of their first ever players, Charles William Miller, is famous for bringing organized football to Brazil in 1895.

So you have Miller to thank for Brazil dominating the world’s game for generations to come.

Back in Southampton, it wasn’t until the 1890s when they changed their name to Southampton Football Club and it wasn’t until 1974 that a halo appeared on their official badge for the first time. When you say Southampton, the first thing people think of is Saints and the halo is a key part of their identity.

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Return to their spiritual home

After playing on the other side of the city at their old stadium, The Dell, for most of their existence, in 2001 Southampton moved into Saint Mary’s Stadium, 700 yards away from Saint Mary’s Church.

Fun fact: the song “The Bells of St Mary’s” made famous by Bing Crosby in his film of the same name is actually about Saint Mary’s Church in Southampton. The song was originally written by A. Emmett Adams and Douglas Furber in 1917 and the lyrics nod to Southampton’s fame as a sprawling seaport and the bells being famed among sailors.

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The bells of St Mary’s church were heard by sailors and passengers throughout Southampton’s rich maritime history and there is a particularly strong connection between Southampton and the U.S. army.

During World War II Southampton was one of the main embarkation points for the D-Day landings as over 3.5 million Allied soldiers passed through the port during the conflict. Some U.S. soldiers etched their names onto walls in streets (right next to the Mayflower Memorial, which is the site where the Pilgrims originally left for the U.S. in 1620 in the Mayflower and the Speedwell but they had to stop in Dartmouth before heading across the Atlantic due to damage to latter ship) which line the famous docks to let their loved ones back home know where they were. Many of those etchings are still preserved today for visitors to show their respects and hear about the incredible stories.

Southampton vs Leeds

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Kyle Walker-Peters of Southampton celebrates after scoring their sides second goal during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Leeds United at Friends Provident St. Mary’s Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

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When it comes to Southampton Football Club, now you know why they are nicknamed the Saints and the next time you’re watching a game at Saint Mary’s Stadium, remember this: Saints are playing just a couple of perfectly placed James Ward-Prowse free kicks away from the home of their founders, who kicked it all off almost 140 years ago.

The Saints have truly marched home.


SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: (EDITORS NOTE: This photograph was taken using a drone) An aerial view of the Friends Provident St. Mary’s Stadium prior to the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Chelsea FC at Friends Provident St. Mary’s Stadium on August 30, 2022 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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