Queens of the South

The Football League was founded in 1888 to provide regular fixtures for the new professional teams from the industrial North and Midlands. As such, teams from Southern England play only a limited role in its early history. Even when southern teams were elected, clubs from London were given preference, with Luton (1897-1900) and Bristol City (from 1901) being the only teams from outside the capital to be admitted to the League before the First World War. It was not until the Southern League Division 1 was elected en masse to the Football League as Division 3 South in 1920 that the League became truly national.

Southern England

We can define Southern England by a line running from the Bristol Channel to the Wash, namely the traditional counties of Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, and Wiltshire. If we exclude Greater London (the parts of Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey inside the M25), then there are 32 Southern clubs that have played in the Football League. These are marked on the map above (produced using Google Maps). The following table gives the highest placed Southern (but not London) teams in the Football League:

    1897-1900   Luton Town [3]           1982-83     Watford [1]
    1900-01     no teams          1983-85     Southampton [2]
    1901-15     Bristol City [14]        1985-86     Luton Town [1]
    1915-19     no competition    1986-87     Norwich City [1]
    1919-22     Bristol City [3]         1987-88     Luton Town [1]
    1922-24     Southampton [2]          1988-89     Norwich City [1]
    1924-39     Portsmouth [15]          1989-92     Southampton [3]
    1939-46     no competition    1992-94     Norwich City [2]
    1946-55     Portsmouth [9]           1994-2000   Southampton [6]
    1955-60     Luton Town [5]           2000-01     Ipswich Town [1]
    1960-64     Ipswich Town [4]         2001-04     Southampton [3]
    1964-66     Northampton Town [2]     2004-06     Portsmouth [2]
    1966-69     Southampton [3]          2006-07     READING [1]
    1969-70     Ipswich Town [1]         2007-10     Portsmouth [3]
    1970-71     Southampton [1]          2010-13     Norwich City [3]
    1971-77     Ipswich Town [6]         2013-17     Southampton [4]
    1977-78     Norwich City [1]         2017-18     AFC Bournemouth [1]
    1978-82     Ipswich Town [4]         2018-19     Watford [1]

Portsmouth come out on top 29 times (including two Football League titles), followed by Southampton with 24, Bristol City with 17 (15 unopposed), Ipswich with 16 (including one title), Luton with ten (three unopposed), Norwich with eight, Northampton and Watford with two, and Bournemouth and Reading with one.