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Ted Drake - A Saintly Connection
Wednesday, 5th Jun 2024 13:00

Liam Harding is the Great Grandson of Southampton, Arsenal & England legend Ted Drake, he he reveals how that family connection has led him to explore his roots and take an interest at the club where it all started for his Grandfather.

Since I was younger I have always supported Arsenal and my local club Basingstoke Town for whom I was once their match day announcer when 17, however since last year I have also taken up Southampton to complete the pre-meditated “Holy Trinity”.

As a Hampshire man I have always looked out for Southampton’s results as they’re one of the most local teams to me in distance, but on top of this because of my Great Granddad, Ted Drake.

The son of a sea merchant who was born in 1912 down in Holyrood not far from Southampton’s packed docks, Ted was a Saint through and through attending many matches at the old Dell and taking inspiration from top talisman at the time Bill Rawlings.


After a successful period at non-league team Winchester City whilst at the same time a gas reader at Southampton’s Gaslight and Coke Company where he met his wife Ruby at a dancing event outside of work, he joined the Saints in 1931 where he remained for the next three years as the clubs main goal scorer, attracting the all conquering Arsenal side of the 1930s which clinched five league titles and heralded two FA Cups.

After signing for The Gunners in 1934 my Great Grandad was their top goal scorer for the next five seasons where he broke and holds the feat to this day for the most goals (7) snatched in a top-flight game of English football in 1935 versus Aston Villa.

He also scored 44 goals in one campaign which is a record for the most goals bagged in a season at The Gunners currently as well as becoming the quickest player to net 100 goals in 108 matches.

One of his three sons was Graham my Grandad, whom I’ve attended Arsenal and Basingstoke games with, was born ten years to the day that Ted famously annihilated Aston Villa with his seven goals at Villa Park single handily.

The Southampton born and bred man represented his country scoring six times in five games for England during the 1930s in his heyday including a hat-trick versus Hungary. Drake later became the first person to win the top-flight of English football as player then manager at Chelsea in 1955. Unfortunately Ted died in 1995 nearly a decade before I was born in 2002 which meant I was never able to meet him.


I have naturally been an Arsenal fan as that’s who my family mainly supports apart from my uncle who supports arch rivals Spurs. However as a Sports Journalism student only down the road at Solent University I decided to at last sign up to a Saints membership which I did delightfully. I had stood around the outside of St.Marys to report on latest club news via audio and video before for Uni work but never inside to watch a game, by March 2023 that had all changed.

My first game was against Brentford with Saints bottom of the Premier League, I was aware that it would be tricky for Southampton to get out of the bottom three but nevertheless I hoped they would like all other fans.

Whilst staying in student housing in the Polygon with a few friends for the night I walked to St.Mary’s in the dark worried of being stabbed, although the fears subsided once I saw through the trees of East Park that there were thousands of fans walking to the game and many police officers making me realise I was in good company.

I was sat high up in the Itchen Stand for the evening match, as soon as I heard the brass band marching round the outside of the playing turf playing “oh when the Saints go Marching in” a wave of emotion overpoured my sense as I realised just how much Southampton meant to me and my family from within.

Fortunately I was able to roll back the tears in front of a dad and his two young sons next to me. Bitterly then Ruben Selles Saints struggled to match the efforts of the buzzing “Bees” which put two past Southampton in the end. For myself the highlight of the night came hysterically once Ivan Toney scrambled in the opener when one angry man next to me said “he shouldn’t even be playing” after recently violating FA betting rules.

Sooner rather than later I’d caught the Saints bug and visited St.Marys one last time before they were relegated from the 2022/23 Premier League.

Only days before an end to their 11 year Premier League stay was confirmed, I witnessed the 1-0 harrowing defeat to AFC Bournemouth whilst sat in the ground soaking wet after walking to the game and getting stuck in the rain walking through the City Centre.


I was shocked by how little the Southampton fans reacted to the overpowering away supporters chanting “Bournemouth are massive everywhere we go” however before Che Adams goal was disallowed for offside everyone stood up and went mad (including myself) in the final minutes of play. After the game with the rain running down both sides of my face whilst walking up the dingy narrow green distained bridge bordering the ground, I thought there’s no way Saints are staying up after that and I was right!

This season just gone I went to more than half a dozen of games including the playoff semi-final second leg versus West Brom at home. There had never been so many fans outside St.Marys in my own experience or a queue even at the programme stall which I was at. I said to the man in front of me “I’ve never queued before to get a programme” he responded jokingly “There’s actually fans here”.

Normally 45 minutes before kick off is a good amount of time to leave yourself to get food but not on this occasion, after waiting patiently in two different queues for 40 minutes I finally got to the front, only to be told “we’ve run out of food” so I settled for a Pepsi for my dinner.

The first half proved to be tricky for Southampton who found difficulties in breaking down a ten man West Brom wall, I was worried that come the break the game would go to extra-time and I’d miss the last train home but soon enough my worries were settled.

Within moments of the final 45 minutes Will Smallbone flew in the opener before fan and player’s player of the season Adam Armstrong scored two late goals to wrap up a 3-1 victory and a trip to Wembley for the final.


At the end of the game I could see hundreds of fans had ran onto the pitch without being stopped, I decided to join them, jumping over the seats in front of me eagerly and charging onto the field being lucky just about avoiding the flare which was set off near me.

Once I’d soaked in one of my best moments as a Southampton fan so far I left the ground and hopped on a Saintly dominated train and taxi back to my home in Basingstoke.

Gut-wrenchingly I was unable to attend the playoff final at Wembley against Leeds, in which Adam Armstrong would help Saints win 1-0 due to being away with my family on holiday in Cornwall. Boy was I happy to see the Saints were promoted back to the Premier League at first attempt in Russell Martins first campaign in charge.

What an eventful two seasons it has been for myself, as well as for many other Saints supporters.

For more information on Ted Drake and indeed every other Southampton player over the years, visit Southampton Fc historian Duncan Holley's excellent website

Photo: Action Images

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codge added 22:20 - Jun 5
A true legend if ever there was.

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