With his legendary status as a one club footballer duly noted by many fans across the globe, Southampton fans’ favourite and former Premier League Forward, Matt Le Tissier, talks to FootieWithDad in an exclusive interview about his childhood experiences and the successful career he had within the game.
Le Tissier may be only one of many that has graced the Britain’s top league with such skill and clinical finishing in front of goal, if any, of his rivals will be remembered so affectionately by supporters of a certain vintage, such was the Attacking Midfielder’s overall impact upon the South Coast side between 1986 and 2002 – this was his first and only professional club after leaving his birthplace of Guernsey.
Indeed, it was only the opportunity to realise his Premier League dream that led to his departure from the Channel Islands, and he has recalled often how he rejected overtures from a whole host of top British clubs, the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur came close, but ultimately failed to dislodge his loyalty to the Saints.
“I came close to leaving when Spurs tried to buy me in 1990. That was the most I was tempted to leave Southampton.” He said.
“I’m 49 years old now and to this day I don’t regret any of the decisions I made, I had chances to move on to other clubs and in the end I am very happy about the contribution I made to Southampton Football Club.”
The attention in his excellent form came after he was voted PFA Young Player of the Year for the 1989–90 season, in which he was one of the league’s top goalscorers with 20 goals as Southampton finished seventh in the old First Division, the club’s highest finish for five years.
In time this would also alert the England national team, where he went on to make eight appearances without scoring. He also represented England B sides and the Under 21’s during his international stints.
However, what with the peferal of forwards on the international scene at that time, Le Tissier found it difficult to claim a regular place with the Three Lions under the tenures of Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle respectively.
Nonetheless, it’s Southampton where he will always be remembered as a player who has the club at heart, during that period he made 540 appearances, scoring 209 times – a true club legend.
One of those 209 goals came in his and the club’s last match at Southampton’s old ground in 1999, The Dell. The midfielder said goodbye in style to the stadium that had been host to his entire professional career, by scoring a volley in the final minutes of the final league game securing a 3–2 win against Arsenal. Le Tissier thus, has the fitting moment to treasure of scoring the last competitive goal at The Dell.
“The last goal at The Dell was a pretty special moment in my career,” Le Tissier admits. “I had been injured a lot and I hadn’t scored a Premier League throughout that season, Stuart Gray the Saints manager at the time came up to me on the Tuesday before the game and said ‘at the weekend, by the time the final whistle goes, both you and Franny Benali will be on the pitch for what you’ve done at the football club over the last 15 or so years, you deserve to be on that pitch’ – i’m not sure he envisaged me going on scoring the winning goal!”
The fearsome set-piece specialist remembers fondly back to his childhood surrounding football, where his love of the game began: “Growing up in Guernsey, I didn’t get to see too many live football matches , but one of my most favourite childhood memories was in 1981,” He recalls.
“The Friday before the FA Cup final (between Spurs and Manchester City) on the Saturday, I came home from school at lunchtime as normal. Shortly after, I got ready to head back to school for the afternoon when my Dad said to me, “you’re not going back to school this afternoon son, you’re coming to London with me to watch the cup final tomorrow!”
“I think I was around 12 at the time – I could have only dreamt of going with him and his mates to watch a cup final, as a young Spurs fan back then it was amazing to see the likes of Glenn Hoddle play in the flesh which topped off a great weekend with my Dad.”
“I still remember turning up to the hotel, having the excitement of walking up Wembley way and walking up the steps to the pitch – it was an incredible feeling,” he admits.
The final ended with the score at 1-1, with the replay following on a few days later where the London club managed victory courtesy of a Ricky Villa 30 yard goal that was voted Wembley Goal of the Century in 2001, which subsequently won Tottenham the match, 3–2, and the FA Cup for the sixth time.
“One of the first games I remember watching on television, bizarrely enough was the 1976 FA Cup final where Southampton beat Manchester United (1-0).” He added.
“I can remember that I was always a great champion of the underdog and cup final day was the only game televised all season – I remember cheering when Southampton’s Bobby Stokes scored as well, scroll forward 10 years and I was making my debut for Southampton!”
“I think that cup final where I was around the age of 8 at the time, was the thing that got me hooked on playing football.”
“I used to think wouldn’t it be great to make a living from playing football and that was kind of where my focus was growing up.”
Upon retirement as a professional player, Le Tissier also had a spell at non-league Eastleigh. He can now be seen working regularly on Saturday afternoons as a football pundit for Sky Sports on the flagship show ‘Soccer Saturday.’ He is still a keen follower of Southampton, as well as the honorary president of Guernsey F.C.
Le Tissier has his own experiences of FootieWithDad with his two sons over the years. However, the former midfielder’s eight-year-old daughter doesn’t quite share the same interest as her older siblings.
“My two older kids were old enough to watch me during the back end of my career and I have now got an eight year old little girl. I took her to St Mary’s for the first time when she was around 4 or 5 to a pre-season game where it was a bit quieter and I could just let her play in the stands – she’s been to a few games since but she’s not really hooked, yet…”
Matt Le Tissier’s experiences will inspire the friends of FootieWithDad: “Follow your dreams, I believe everyone is born with a talent and the key to life is about working it out and throwing yourself into it fully. If you wake up everyday and it doesn’t feel like you’re going to work then you’re winning.”
We would like to thank Matt Le Tissier for stopping by and sharing his experiences with us. Make sure you also view the famous face stories we have on our FootieWithDad YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2W8YBlUghHM