Ted Bates

Hands-on Southampton football manager

Edric Thornton Bates (Ted Bates), footballer and manager: born Thetford, Norfolk, 3 May 1918; played for Southampton 1937-53; managed Southampton 1955-73; MBE 2001; married (two daughters); died Chandler's Ford, Hampshire 26 November 2003.

As Matt Busby was the man who made Manchester United, and Bill Shankly laid the foundations for the modern Liverpool, so Ted Bates was the Father of the Saints.

For two-thirds of a century he served Southampton Football Club, first as a player, then coach, manager, chief executive, director and president, and while he never came remotely close to emulating the glorious deeds of the eminent Scottish pair, even they did not wield more comprehensive influence over their grand Old Trafford and Anfield empires than did Bates in the homely surroundings of the Dell.

An uncomplicated, shrewd, enthusiastic fellow, he thrived in an era when clubs and their fans possessed a degree of patience and retained a sense of perspective which 21st-century bosses can only envy. His principal achievements were to preside over Southampton's rise from the obscurity of the old Third Division (South) in the mid-1950s to the English game's top flight during the next decade, and later to take a mammoth role as the club developed into the established Premiership force it is today.

Bates's management style was based on working around the clock, on utter integrity and on a level- headed character which eschewed undue euphoria in victory or despair in defeat. He was a hands-on, tracksuited boss, a natural motivator without being a martinet, and when he picked a player he would believe in him, offering opportunities even during periods of indifferent form. Unfailingly positive, he concentrated on improving his charges' strengths rather than dwelling on their weaknesses, and he preached a gospel of fast-moving, attacking football.

Bates was born into a sporting family, his grandfather Willie having been an England international at cricket and rugby, and his father Billy having played cricket for Yorkshire and Glamorgan and football for Leeds United and Bolton Wanderers. As a teenager growing up in Norfolk, Ted Bates played for his local side, non-League Thetford Town, before joining Norwich City in 1936. However, he did not break into the first team at Carrow Road and soon after his manager, Tom Parker, had moved to Second Division Southampton, Bates also opted for a fresh start at the Dell, signing on his 19th birthday, in 1937.

A dynamic inside-forward, he made his senior début during the following season, impressing particularly with his aerial prowess, but soon his impetus was halted by the outbreak of the Second World War. While serving in the Army he turned out for the Saints in unofficial competitions and when peace resumed he formed an effective dual spearhead with the prolific Charlie Wayman. His goals - 64 of them in 202 League outings - were immensely valuable, and so was the versatility which enabled him to play in every position, once even taking over in goal.

As he moved into his thirties Bates could not imagine a future outside the game, and in October 1952 he began combining his first-team duties with coaching the reserves. The end of that season brought relegation to the Third Division (South) and Bates retired from playing to help the manager George Roughton with the onerous task of regenerating a club at a low ebb.

In September 1955 he took over as manager, inheriting a £60,000 overdraft, an intimidating sum, but the challenge was not beyond him. The Saints' new boss proved adept at nurturing young talent, such as the centre-forward Derek Reeves and the future England winger Terry Paine, while operating within a tight budget to pick up bargains in the transfer market, the likes of the Scottish marksman George O'Brien, who cost a mere £10,000 from Leeds United before scoring more than 150 goals for Southampton.

A combination of financial prudence and painstaking team-building culminated in 1959/60 with the lifting of the Third Division championship. That term, Bates's team offered breathlessly exhilarating entertainment, with their 46 League games producing 181 goals, of which they scored 106. In that context, although the 75 concessions were more than for any other side in the top ten, the fans were not complaining.

During the first half of the 1960s, Southampton consolidated in the Second Division and reached an FA Cup semi-final, which they lost narrowly to Manchester United in 1963. Three years on, with Paine still starring and the young striker Martin Chivers excelling, the Saints finished as runners-up to Manchester City and gained promotion to the top grade for the first time in their history.

At first survival was not easy, despite the acquisition of free-scoring Ron Davies from Norwich City, but Bates continued to operate cannily - for instance, he sold Chivers to Tottenham Hotspur for a big fee, knowing that he had a ready replacement in the brilliant rookie Mick Channon - and in 1968/69 they ascended to seventh place in the First Division.

There followed qualification for the European Fairs Cup in 1969/70 and its successor, the Uefa Cup, in 1971/72, and although achievement in those competitions was modest, Southampton's very presence in them represented enormous progress given their hitherto humble record.

However, the Saints were struggling by the time Bates, then the Football League's longest-serving boss, was appointed chief executive in December 1973, handing over team affairs to his heir apparent, Lawrie McMenemy, and they were relegated at the season's end.

While the new man prospered at the helm, Bates retained a key role as tactical consultant, contributing hugely to the club's finest hour, the triumph over Manchester United in the 1976 FA Cup Final. After scouting United extensively, he advised the strategy of denying possession to their key men, the wingers Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill, and surprising their defenders with early passes, a ploy which resulted in Bobby Stokes's winning goal.

In 1978, as the Saints regained their top-flight status, Bates joined the board, remaining in that role until becoming club president during the 1990s, a position which he held until his death.

In 2001 he was appointed MBE, and later that year he continued to fulfil an integral part in Southampton's affairs as they relocated from his beloved Dell to their new St Mary's stadium. After Bates's 66 years of faithful service, there was a case for naming it Saint Ted's.

Ivan Ponting

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