Date: 14th June 2013 at 7:03pm
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Flying winger John Sydenham was a Southampton born Saints player who played with greats like Terry Paine and Ron Davies. He was born on Friday 15th September 1939.

Flying winger John Sydenham was a Southampton born Saints player who played with greats like Terry Paine and Ron Davies. He was born on Friday 15th September 1939.

Born in Southampton, John was educated at St. Mary`s College, Southampton and, at 13, he became their first pupil to play for the Southampton Schools XI. By playing his part in the side that reached the final of the 1954 English Schools trophy, only to lose out to Liverpool, he came to the notice of Saints. In August 1955 he joined CPC Sports who doubled as a Saints` nursery side.

In due course John became part of the successful 1956-57 Southampton Youth side which did so well in the FA Youth Cup. Saints lost out 7-5 to Manchester United on aggregate but Sydenham’s lasting memory of the cup adventure was of Manchester United manager Matt Busby going into the Old Trafford dressing room and congratulating them on their performance.

The young Saints side had just won 3-2, becoming the first side to beat United in the Youth Cup, but the damage had already been done in front of a 20,000 crowd at The Dell where the Busby Babes had won the first leg 5-2.

By now John had become a regular youth player for Saints and earned five international caps for England youth. April 1957 saw him sign professional forms for Saints and May saw him make his debut for the first team.

Along with John Saintsfc had another winger, and with Terry Paine on the right wing Saints had what was regarded as the best wing pairing in the club’s entire history.

John had tremendous speed and was known for his ability to knock the ball past a defender and beat him to the ball as he raced down the left flank.

As the game began to change with many teams playing minus out and out wingers John often had to sit out games played away from home. Though he did play in one special game in which he was the supplier of all four goals that were accredited to Ron Davies in a superb all round performance at Old Trafford against the mighty Manchester United on 16th August 1969. All four goals coming from Sydenham crosses.

Overall John made a total of 401 appearances for Saints in League and Cup matches scoring 40 goals.

Eventually, he was slowed by age and lost much of his effectiveness and, after a testimonial match against Portsmouth, in March 1970 he moved to Aldershot (under old team-mate Jimmy Melia), for whom he made 59 appearances before moving on to Bath City, managed by another ex-Saint David Burnside, for whom he played 77 games from July 1972.

He first went to Perth, Western Australia in 1974. He stayed just for the one year, but in that time faced Chelsea with the State side in May and won a Top-Four medal with Floreat Athena before jetting back to England. He was lured back to Western Australia in 1980 to take on a player-coaching role at the Greek-backed club Athena, where both Alan Ball and Ted MacDougall played for him, and succeeded in returning the side back into the State League as Second Division champions.

I will always remember the 60’s with a fondness as it was the first time we saw Saints reach the top tier of English football in the old then named First Division.

Memories of either Paine or Sydenham bursting forward and crossing for our central strike force remain vivid to me.

Do you you remember John? Have you any stories to add to this article? If so you can PM me.

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