Terry Paine has lived his life as a football trailblazer.

Amongst a career of footballing firsts, Paine enjoys telling the story of the time his Saints youth team played Manchester United in the semi-final of the 1957 FA Youth Cup.

“They came to The Dell and beat us 5-3 and we went to Old Trafford and became the first team to win there. We won 3-2. I scored the third goal - and I’ve got to tell you something…I punched it in! On the far post, I punched it in!

"But we won 3-2 and the great Sir Matt Busby came into the dressing room afterwards to congratulate us because we were the first team to win there.”

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This story isn’t just notable for the ‘first’ Paine mentions, it’s even more notable for another first that would lead to so much more over the ensuing decades: the first Saints youth team.

“Ted Bates decided to start a youth team, which was quite remarkable at the time. In that squad, we had a 16/17 youth players. And can you believe this, 12 of that team, sign professional forms for Southampton Football Club. Unheard of.

“It was basically the foundations of Southampton Football club under Ted Bates. That was the foundation and five of us, I think went on to make first team appearances. The outside left, John Sydenham, him and I between with my appearances and his 400-odd, we have something like 12 or 1300 appearances between us - from that youth team. 

Daily Echo: Terry Paine in a Saints shirt. Image by: PATerry Paine in a Saints shirt. Image by: PA

“I think in terms of being it was the first youth team, one wouldn't really know exactly where that would end up and where that would go. I mean, we just played! We played and we played and then all of a sudden, goodness gracious, we were in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup. It was unheard of! And who did we play? But the Busby Babes - Manchester United.

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“Our youth team was the start of what was to come. Obviously, it’s been built on. The academy is second to none, the players they produce…Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott…you could go on. The academy does produce.”

Paine followed his academy first with numerous other larger ones. A member of the Saints team that earned the club's first promotion to the top flight. Part of England's 1966 World Cup squad which won the country’s first and only major tournament. First on Saints’ list of appearances with 816 and as an ambassador for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, played a major role in bringing Africa its first World Cup.

Now, Honorary President of Southampton, Paine’s life of firsts has been wrapped around the club he’s become synonymous with. But it could have all been so different had Arsenal been slightly more organised.

Working as an apprentice carriage worker in Eastleigh, Paine played semi-professionally for hometown Winchester City before being invited to North London for a set of trials. He got invited back. It seemed to go well. But he never heard from the Gunners.

Not to worry, the trials at Arsenal had alerted Saints manager Ted Bates and soon Paine’s present - and future - was sealed.

“With another player, I was at Winchester with, Colin Holmes we both went down to The Dell into Ted Bates’ office. And he locked the door and he wouldn’t let us out until we signed the forms! And you must remember in those days once you signed for a club, that was it. Unless they wanted you to leave, you couldn't leave. There was no freedom of contract. That didn't come to the early 60s.

“Months later I was actually playing in the Southampton first team and we were playing Arsenal this one Saturday at The Dell. And Jack Crayston, their assistant manager, was in the hotel. When I walked by he said, ‘Oh, Terry, can I tell you what happened?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Well, we were supposed to send you forms to sign but the secretary forgot!’”

Daily Echo: Terry Paine (third from left bottom row) in the 1973/74 team picture. Image by: PATerry Paine (third from left bottom row) in the 1973/74 team picture. Image by: PA

Paine lets out a loud laugh as he recalls the moment before continuing.

“It couldn't have worked out better as it happened.”

To say that last sentence is true would be a seismic understatement.

After signing his first professional contract, Paine’s stock skyrocketed almost instantly. In three consecutive weeks he made his debuts for the Southampton A Team, Reserves and the First Team.

Many would have been fazed. Perhaps all should have been fazed - considering the rough and tumble environment of football in the late 1950s. Not Paine.

“We used to say any tackle below the chest was acceptable. So you had to have your wits about you, that’s for sure!” he laughs. “You had to be very sharp and be aware of what was going on and how the game was played. 

“But when it came to tactics it was more: get on the front foot, attack, and have a go. And if you look back on the history of Southampton Football Club, pretty much through history, they always tried to get on the front foot and they always have had very good finishers at the club - players who can put it in the back of the net. And that’s what it was all about in our day. We might concede three but we’ll score four or five. In fact, we scored 112 goals one season in the league…and didn’t get promoted! We conceded 80 I think it was!”

A first team regular pretty much from the moment he got locked into Ted Bates’ office, Paine’s brashness and almost superhuman levels of confidence occasionally frustrated his more senior teammates but on the pitch, it was certainly worth it.

It took *just* 106 goals to earn promotion back to the Second Division in 1960 to end a seven-year stay in the third tier. Six years later, they finally made it to the promised land of the First Division for the first time in the club’s history.

As became the case in pretty much every big moment from the time Pane stepped onto the scene as a coky teenager, the winger was central to the success.

“I was never the greatest headerer of the ball and those big heavy leather balls…when it rained and absorbed the water it was like trying to play with medicine balls! I never got too involved when the ball was in the air - only now and again when it mattered.

"Medically it looks like it’s been proven that it has caused these problems with dementia. And when look at defenders and the old-fashioned centre-forward who would have been renowned to head the ball…you have to look at the medical evidence and say it has to have effected them. But that was life then - nobody really gave that a second a thought.

"The best header I made in my life was at Leyton Orient, 1966, I scored the winner with a header and it put us in the First Division for the first time in the club’s history. And believe it or not I scored the first goal for the club in the First Division the next season when we played Manchester City. So it’s a little double: the last and the first.”

Things would get a lot better for Paine in the weeks following promotion as he took part in the triumphant England World Cup squad. Paine earned his spot - but as the only player in the group who had yet to play in the First Division - this was perhaps one of few times he felt daunted in a remarkable career.

Daily Echo: The 1966 England World Cup squad. Image by: PAThe 1966 England World Cup squad. Image by: PA

“I’ve got to be honest with you, when you arrive and you haven’t played in the First Division and now you’re playing with Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Bobby Charlton and the greatest goalie ever, Gordon Banks...with those kinds of players, I had to wonder what I was doing there! But Alf Ramsey saw something in me and gave me my chance. And it was a case of if you played well for England, it wasn’t so much what you were doing for your club, it was what you were doing for England. If you played well for Alf, he never forgot you.”

Once he was in, Paine didn’t look back. Seven goals for his country including winners in West Germany and against a supercharged ‘Rest of World’ team ensured Ramsey’s faith in Paine leading up to 1966.

He was one of just four players to play in the tournament but not the final. It's an interesting legacy from a time when only the 11 on the pitch were fully highlighted. It took until 2009 for the rest of the squad to receive medals.

Jimmy Greaves spoke about his disappointment at being left out for the showpiece finale but Paine primarly just remembers his pride at being there with the team. Although it all could have been so different…

“I was happy to be involved to start with but against Mexico I got headed in the back of the head and had a concussion. No subs so I played all the game and can’t remember a thing about it! 

“]We’d drawn the first game against Uruguay and then we played Mexico and won 2-0. But I got concussed so that was me. And there is one or two questions: what would have happened if I hadn’t got concussed? Would I have stayed in the team? It’s a question we’ll never be able to answer. But the great Alan Ball came in. But would he have played me again if I hadn’t got concussed? Because once you were injured that was virtually it as far as Alf was concerned. 

Daily Echo: Terry Paine in action against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup. Image by: PATerry Paine in action against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup. Image by: PA

“And that’s what happened to Jimmy. He had that cut on his shin, whether that was th reason he left him out, I honestly don’t know. But for somebody like Jimmy, who’s an absolute legend - he was England - to be left out was a bitter blow. But not for me. I felt I was extremely lucky to be there in the first place and extremely lucky to play and do my part - to be part of it.

“I think the papers called it the greatest day in England’s history and not just football-wise but for the entire country to be able to celebrate and as the papers said, to be on top of the world. It certainly was! It was a magical momentous moment that hasn’t been repeated.”

The World Cup created a lasting bond between the team and the nation as a whole - it doesn’t matter age or if you were even alive, everyone can picture the image of Bobby Moore hoisted into the sky by his teammates as he holds up the Jules Rimet trophy.

It also created a bond between the players who made that moment possible.

Daily Echo: Bobby Moore and England celebrate their World Cup triumph (Terry Paine in a suit on the far left). Image by: PABobby Moore and England celebrate their World Cup triumph (Terry Paine in a suit on the far left). Image by: PA

“We all returned to our clubs but we would get together for golf days and that kind of thing, meet up once a year. And we did that fairly regularly, I’d moved to South Africa in the early 80s so I missed some of those get togethers. But as the players have got older that’s waned.”

Just five members of that incredible England squad are still alive. In March, Paine turned 83 years old. His memory is vivid, seemingly able to recall evey moment from his career and life as he radiates excitement about the past and the now. But as he says with a wry laugh, “life doesn’t go on forever.”

In September, that was poignantly felt by Paine and everyone else connected to English football as the great Jimmy Greaves passed away. It’s something Paine has reconcile with.

"We got medals many years later," he says with a smile. "And it was good to meet up with Jim there and go to Number 10 to receive it from the PM of the day.

“It’s extremely sad. It’s an era that’s now passing away quite quickly sadly. The majority of us are now in our 80s. Some have succumbed to other illnesses and passed away. It’s that time when people do get old and they do pass on."

The reality is that Terry Paine won't be around forever. But his legacy - a legacy of firsts for both Saints and England - will most certainly stand the test of time.