SAINTS’ owner Katharina Liebherr has revealed her pride in how the club has developed from League One strugglers to top six in the Premier League under her family’s ownership – and made promises to keep the club competing at the highest level.
Liebherr inherited ownership of Saints after her father Markus’s death in August 2010, but has rarely spoken publically about her views on the club, apart from making a statement after Nicola Cortese’s departure in 2014.
However, in the new book Match of the New Millennium by publishers Hagiology, which charts Saints’ most memorable matches since 2001 and was launched yesterday, Liebherr has written a heartfelt foreword that also gives fascinating insight into the her father’s purchase of the club in 2009.
“My father made the decision to take over Southampton Football Club seven years ago,” she writes.
“Looking back, I am very proud of how the Club has developed since then, and that we are now facing a positive future makes me even prouder.
“Not only will we continue to fight to be among the top teams in the Premier League but also we will do everything to be internationally successful in the Europa League.
“It had not been an easy decision for my father to purchase the Club.
“His being a son of a successful industrial entrepreneur, it was essential that specific conditions had to be met.
“Besides a motivated and powerful Team, working on a common vision, the spirit of the Club also convinced him.
“My father took on a massive responsibility, which he had always been aware of.
“It was not important for him to self-display, but to bring back a traditional Club like the Saints into the Premier League and to prove to many people at the same time that they can be proud of their Club.
“Right at the beginning, my father raised the following questions with Les Reed: Are we able to have a young dynamic team which is able to play fair and attractive football that convinces our fans?
“Are we able to develop young talents and will we be successful enough with “homegrown” players to be back in the Premier League within five years?
“Les’s immediate answer was: “Yes, we can!”
“From that moment, my father looked forward and put all his trust into the people at the Club and today we can proudly say that his plan was successfully realised.
“I remember well I had never before seen my father so happily smiling, as when he became the owner of the Saints and when he was responsible for the wonderful task. His personal highlight was the 4-1 victory versus Carlisle United in the JPT Final in 2010, where I was able to join him. For me, this is one of the most important milestones we have achieved until today.
“Unfortunately, and much too early, my father passed away on 10 August 2010. He could no longer witness personally the wonderful time, and the success story, of the Saints.
“Even more, it became my duty, and also an honour, to carry on his vision and his spirit. The SOUTHAMPTON WAY continued seamlessly and the goal of promotion to the Premier League never got lost.”
Liebherr was initially criticised after Cortese’s departure in January, with one national newspaper printing the headline “Liebherr the dream wrecker!” and stated that she had little interest in football.
However, since that moment Saints have managed to catapult themselves to two record-breaking finishes in the Premier League and into European competition, despite losing talent season-on-season.
And it has been clear that Liebherr harbours more than a little interest in football from picking out her best moments while watching from the St Mary’s stands – and another special moment with one of the club’s legends – in her foreword.
She writes: “I remember well the great success of the 3-2 victory over Liverpool in March 2016, when the team showed so much character.
“It was a very special moment for me when Kelvin gave me his personal JPT medal with the words: “Thank you for the last seven years. I think you should have this.”
“Together with a very motivated staff and with a team who plays fair and attractive football and who will also present themselves on an international level, we look forward to a positive and successful future.”