They’ve collected over 2,000 Saints signatures. Now, Steve and Michael Morrison from Southampton have claimed the holy grail of all autographs – thanks to the Daily Echo.
They need just six more to complete their epic mission to amass all the signatures of every player who has appeared for Saints post-war.
Following hours of painstaking research and hitting dead-ends, the Morrisons have finally brought the infamous Ali Dia back to the south coast, if only in ink form. “Dia came from a chap who had seen the Daily Echo article on our collection,” explained Steve. “He collected it as a kid and had hidden it away for years. It came on a page along with Richard Dryden, Dave Beasant and Eyal Berkovic. They all played in the same season.
“Each signature has the name of the player written down in ‘little boy’ writing to remind the collector who they are and all the signatures are in the same pen ink. “All the circumstantial evidence says it’s the real deal. If not then it is one hell of a clever con, but I’m sure it’s real!”
The man who originally had the autograph was Tom Brittain, a Saints fan that lives in Surrey and just happened to be outside The Dell that day when Dia walked into the stadium. He said: “At that point I needed about 20 (signatures) to get all the squads from all the teams in the Premier League.
“I was 11 at the time and I was waiting for the players to arrive. I’d heard a rumour George Weah’s cousin was signing so I was on the look out for the new man. When he arrived I just pounced on him. Unfortunately there were no memorable words.”
Dia duped Saints’ management team into giving him 53 minutes of Premier League football in 1996, after claiming he was the cousin of World Footballer of the Year Weah. He came on against Leeds United for an injured Matthew Le Tissier after 32 minutes and immediately almost scored, but after that he attempted to cover up his inability by avoiding the ball and Graeme Souness took him off five minutes before the end. The Morrisons, from Harefield, are now down to the final six of their quest. If you can help them, email email@example.com.
The missing autographs Ryan Ashford: Played just once for Saints in 2000/01 at Mansfield Town in the League Cup. Later played for Eastleigh and VTFC (Sholing). Gordon Brown: Made nine appearances between 1959 and 1961. Helped Saints win the Third Division in 1960. Zoltan Liptak: Played seven matches as a sub in 2008/09. Bernard Pask: He made his only appearance against Coventry in 1960. Was born and lived around Southampton before he passed away in 1985.
Jim Whittle: The Scot made two appearances for Saints in 1953/54. Died in 2001.
Ken Wilkins: He played twice and scored once in 1950/51. Wilkins scored in a 2-1 loss to Birmingham City before playing his last game in a 1-1 draw with Cardiff. He moved to South Africa, passing away there in 1995.