A FOOTBALL-mad father and son have completed their collection of more than 7,000 Saints signatures, the largest in the world.

Steve and Michael Morrison's 17-year quest to collect the autograph of every Southampton player, coach and manager since World War II has taken them on a virtual tour of the globe. 

The collection, which they have now extended to include every Saints signature from throughout the club's 137-year history, dates back as far as Herbert Williamson, who moved to Southampton early in the 1894-95 season and went straight into the first-team goal, playing in the newly-formed Southern League.

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It includes the late Saints owner Markus Liebherr, who rescued the ailing club from administration and League One when he paid £14m for it in 2009. 

The widow of Jim Whittle, the former Scottish schoolboy international who made two Saints appearances as an on-loan centre-forward in the 1953/54 season, even went as far as cutting her late husband's signature out of his passport and sending it to the avid collectors from her home in Cambuslang, Scotland after seeing a report on their efforts in the local newspaper.

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place earlier this month when Steve spotted a match-worn shirt bearing the signature of Allan Tchaptchet in a charity auction on the Facebook page of French Ligue 2 side Grenoble FC. The defender had proved elusive following his one fleeting 12-minute substitute appearance in the 9-0 loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford in February 2021 and was the only post-war signature that still eluded them.

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Steve takes up the story: "It all began back in 2005 when our team played against Ex Saints.

"Michael, aged ten at the time, came on for our team for the last ten minutes and Matt Le Tissier, playing for us for a few minutes, set him up to score. After the game, he went round the players getting their signatures. In the car on the way home he asked me if we could get them all. I thought he meant all of the players at the game, but no, his sights were set much higher. And so it began!"

The pair achieved their ambition in March 2014 with a little help from The Daily Echo who contacted the club central midfield loanee Zoltan Liptak was playing for in Hungary, Gyor and secured his signature.

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Steve, from Harefield, continues: "We have continued our obsession to this day. Not content with achieving our goal of post-war autographs, we now had a very addictive hobby and so began working backwards.

"Our collection is vast, over 1,200 different individuals who have represented the Saints; managers, coaches, directors, owners, players, reserves, youths, and well over 7000 altogether.

"Herbert Williamson from 1894 is our oldest to date but our golden goal is to get someone from the original lineup from 1885 that beat Freemantle 5 - 1!

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"We now have virtually everyone who has played for, coached, owned, directed and managed Saints since their first football league season in 1920, including dozens of World War Two guest players - several hundred reserves, youth team players and amateurs who never quite made the first eleven but contributed as a team to help the superstars shine.

"Since 2014 we just haven't stopped! A bit like the universe our collection expands daily! Thierry Small was the last debutant Saint and we look forward to the next one! We've had some incredibly memorable times along the way.

"It has been an incredibly exciting journey for us which led to communications with some amazing people from every continent."

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Steve cites his most memorable moments as being passed the FA Cup by 1976 hero Mick Channon during an anniversary event on stage at Mayflower Theatre and celebrating promotion back to the Premier League in 2012 with the players following the 4-0 victory over Coventry at St Mary's. 

The season ticket holders have spent thousands on the collection and are always looking to add to their haul, which is mostly housed inside dozens of binders.

Independent valuers from the National Football Museum have confirmed the collection as the biggest club collection they are aware of anywhere in the world.

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But the Morrisons have no plans to sell their prized possessions. 

"The answer is a point-blank NO," jokes Steve. "Unless there is an extremely wealthy Saints fan out there that wants to start the bidding at well over seven figures!"


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