SHARE

David Doyle interviews Saints legend Matt Le Tissier. Photos Courtesy of Hollie Ward.

Matt Le Tissier has been lauded as one of the most gifted footballers of his generation. Not only did he consistently top the scoring charts, but he also scored some of the most memorable goals in Premier League history. And Le Tissier did it all whilst playing for Southampton FC his entire career; a rarity in the modern game.

      As I sat in the fairly non-descript coffee shop awaiting the arrival of my childhood hero, all these thoughts were going through my mind: the goals, the skills, the memories. For most players, the statistics speak for themselves, and although his 209 goals from 540 appearances is an outstanding ratio by any standards, so much more made Le Tissier the player he was, and legend he has become.

 

David Doyle (right) interviews Matt Le Tissier on Friday 27th November 2015
David Doyle (right) interviews Matt Le Tissier on Friday 27th November 2015

 

And thanks to an introduction by a mutual friend, I got the opportunity to quiz the Saints legend on his career before, during, and after his time time as a professional footballer.

David Doyle: “Who is your tip for the title?”

Matt Le Tissier: “At the start of the season I did say Chelsea, but that’s not looking too clever right now. I’d probably put my money on Man City.”

David Doyle: “Not Arsenal?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I think because of what has gone on so many times in previous years it steers you away from tipping them off.”

David Doyle: “Relegation?”

Matt Le Tissier: “At this stage of the season I’d be very surprised if Aston Villa get out of it. They’re looking a bit of a mess. I’d probably say Bournemouth, but I hesitate because they’ve been so unlucky with injuries, without which they would have had a good chance of staying up. And then it’s between Norwich and Newcastle. I think Sunderland will be safe because of their manager [Sam Allardyce].”

David Doyle: “What’s it like being retired from the game?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I’ve really enjoyed my retirement. I know some players struggle with not being able to play anymore, but I always had a different mindset. I always knew it would come to an end at some point. Instead of just stopping suddenly, I just wound my games down year on year. I’ve been really lucky with my job on Sky, too.”

David Doyle:Soccer Saturday is arguably the greatest show in the world. Is it as much fun as it looks?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I think it’s probably more fun than it looks. We have some great laughs off air, too. The last ten or twelve years working with Sky has been brilliant. It keeps you involved with the game without the added pressure of management. I think the reason it works so well is that even though the four of us have been retired for a while, it still comes through how much we love football. I think the fans can see us in them. We have differences of opinion on the game, just like people watching at home, and I think that comes across.”

David Doyle: “After Pochettino left, Saints fans were a bit worried, but Koeman has come in and done a great job. How far can they go?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I think the plan for the club is long term. In the short term we’re very much still in the process of building the club. We have had lots of really good players and the way we have invested the money has been good. And we’ve used it to strengthen the squad as a whole instead of the just the first eleven. If that can continue for another three or four years, then we might be able to challenge for that fourth spot.”

David Doyle:Paul Merson always compares leading fast-food chains with top football clubs and says constant reinvestment is essential to stay at the top; but we’ve seen managers like Pochettino, Koeman, and more recently Klopp, focus more on training players to improve. Where do you see the game going?”

Matt Le Tissier: “There are more and more managers now who are willing to back themselves and their coaching ability, rather than go out and buy the best players, and I think that is a breath of fresh air. I think Koeman has done that. He buys players who he thinks he can make into better players. There’s lots of different ways to succeed in football. There is an argument for massively wealthy owners who come in and buy the best players, but there are also lots of clubs who have come in and done it without that.”

David Doyle: “You are arguably one of the most technically gifted English footballers ever. With that in mind, where do you stand on the argument that the English game should focus more on technique?”

Matt Le Tissier: “The Premier League as a whole seems to be more focused on technique as opposed to players who can just run around for ninety minutes non-stop. But sadly the lack of English players means the national team aren’t benefiting from that. We all want England to do well and it’s a shame when the younger English players aren’t getting a chance to play. As long as the Premier League has all the money, they are going to focus on going out and getting ready-made players instead of focusing on developing the ones coming through. Thankfully, I think you’ll always have clubs like Southampton who give youngsters a chance, but they seem to be fewer and farther between as the years have gone on, which is a shame.”

David Doyle: “Who was your favourite manager you played under?”

Matt Le Tissier: “Alan Ball. No contest really. Being a World Cup winner was a part of it, when he walked through the door he commanded respect, but also his man-management was great. He was the only manager who stuck me in the middle of the pitch and said ‘Go do what you want and I’ll make the other ten people around you work for you’. I guess because I wasn’t one of those players who would run around for ninety minutes meant he saw I had ability and he saw a way to get the best out of me. The eighteen months he was at Southampton were the best of my career.”

David Doyle: “Is there a manager you wish you could have played under?”

Matt Le Tissier: “It used to be Jose Mourinho, but I think he’s lost the plot a bit in the last few months and I’ve lost a little bit of respect for him. So now I’d probably respond well to someone a bit eccentric like Jurgen Klopp. He’s achieved some great things without spending millions of pounds.”

David Doyle: “Who did you support when you were a kid, and was there a player you modelled yourself on?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I was a Spurs fan, but I think I would have supported whoever Glenn Hoddle played for. I saw what he could do with a football. We didn’t see much football on TV in those days, so seeing clips of his fifty yard passes, and curling one in the top corner from twenty yards, I thought ‘Wow, I want to do that!’”

David Doyle: “And you did!”

Matt Le Tissier: “Well, I tried my best.”

David Doyle: “Some crowdsourced questions now. Why did you not go to a bigger club and, if you had done, do you think you would have won more England caps?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I was happy at Southampton. I never came into football to play for Manchester United or Barcelona because when I was a kid growing up in Guernsey there were very few footballers who turned professional. And nobody from Guernsey had ever played for England. I just wanted to be happy in my football, play it the way I wanted to play it, and I could do that at Southampton. I nearly went to Spurs for obvious reasons, Liverpool tried to buy me when Souness was manager, and Chelsea too. And I’m pretty certain that I would have got more England caps if I had moved, which is pretty annoying because it shouldn’t be that way. I liked to think that the performances I was putting in for a team that was struggling, the manager would have gone ‘If he can do that in a team that isn’t doing that great, what can he do in a really good team?’ But for some reason the England managers look to the big clubs to pick their players from first.”

David Doyle: “I remember Glenn Hoddle, before becoming England manager, praising you and saying on numerous occasions that you should be given a chance in the England first team. So, how did it feel when he left you out of his 1998 World Cup squad?”

Matt Le Tissier: “When he left me out of the original squad of thirty, I assumed it was because he didn’t think me and Gazza could play in the same team. But when he made the cut down to twenty-two, and I saw that Gazza didn’t make it either, I was like ‘What? What are you doing?’ It seemed strange. Without realising it at the time, I think it had a bigger effect on me than I thought. I never again reached the levels that I did before that World Cup. I think I realised that I was never going to play in a World Cup or play for England again. When that is taken away from you, it takes the edge off a bit. Of course you still want to do well and play for your club, but I think that’s what happened to me.”

David Doyle: “What was your favourite goal that you scored?”

Matt Le Tissier: “My goal against Blackburn. That was my favourite. And my mate was in goal for Blackburn as well so it made it a bit more special.”

David Doyle: “Watching the video of that goal back, you’re not celebrating, and you point to someone?”

Matt Le Tissier: “We were losing and I was pointing to my team-mates to get the ball back. And to give Tim Flowers a bit of stick.”

David Doyle: “Southampton are away at Man City tomorrow [28th November]. Prediction?”

Matt Le Tissier: “There’s not many times I predict Southampton to lose, but tomorrow is one of them [they lost 3-1]. I just think it’s a big ask to go up there without Pelle in the team. He’s such a massive part of what we do as a team.”

David Doyle: “A friend of mine, Sian, wants to know if you have met David Beckham and, if so, is he as hot as he looks on TV?”

Matt Le Tissier: “I have met him. When he made his debut for England I was sat on the bench, and I was in a few England squads with him, too. He’s a good-looking bloke, no denying.”

Le Tissier seems to be enjoying life, and he does not seem to be someone who dwells too much on the past. As someone who played the beautiful game with grace and flair, he seems to now lead a fairly normal life, thankful for the opportunities he has been given. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most influential footballers in the English game, inspiring a whole generation with an attitude towards the game that most of us respect. And he carries that accolade with humility.

After spending a little under an hour in his presence, if I had to sum up the Saints legend in one sentence, I would say that Matt Le Tissier is a man with great talent, used it to the best of his ability, entertained and inspired many, and is happy with what he achieved. Le Tissier continues to entertain football fans as a pundit every Saturday on Sky Sports’ Gillette Soccer Saturday.

Follow David Doyle on Twitter here

Follow Matt Le Tissier on Twitter here

See some of the greatest Matt Le Tissier goals here:

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY