Matthew Le Tissier

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Matthew "Matt" Le Tissier; born 14 October 1968) is a retired Southampton F.C. and England footballer who currently works as a panelist on Sky Sports show Soccer Saturday.

An attacking midfielder with exceptional technical skills,[1] Le Tissier is the second-highest ever scorer for Southampton and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1990. He was the first midfielder to score 100 goals in the English Premier League. He is notable for his record at scoring penalty kicks, converting from the spot 47 times from 48 attempts.

In spite of interest from bigger clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur in 1990 and Chelsea in 1996, Le Tissier remained at Southampton for his entire professional career, his loyalty garnering special affection from Southampton's fans who nicknamed him "Le God".[2]

Contents

Club career

Le Tissier was born in Guernsey, and played youth football on the island with Vale Rec FC between the ages of ten and seventeen. On leaving school in 1985, he had a trial at Oxford United, but nothing came of it.

Signing for Southampton F.C. the following year, Le Tissier made his club debut in a 4–3 defeat at Norwich City in the Football League First Division, and by the end of that season had scored six goals in 24 games. He made 19 first team appearances in 1987–88, failing to score, but in 1988–89 scored nine times in 28 league games. 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.

Le Tissier's top scoring season was 1994–95, when he scored 30 goals. The following season he won the Match of the Day Goal of the Season award for his drifting 40-yard lob against Blackburn Rovers, scoring against his long term friend, and former Southampton Goalkeeper , Tim Flowers.

On 2 April 2000, Le Tissier scored a last minute penalty for Southampton in a 2–1 defeat to Sunderland. This brought his tally of Premiership goals to 100, making him only the sixth player and first midfielder to reach this milestone.[3]

He scored the last goal in the final competitive match played at The Dell, Southampton on 19 May 2001, against Arsenal.[4] This turned out to be his last goal for Southampton. He played several games for the club during 2001–02, the first season at the new St Mary's Stadium, in an eventual 11th-place finish. His final competitive appearance for the Saints came against West Ham on 30 January 2002. [5] He announced on 29 March 2002 that he would retire from playing at the season's end.[6]

His final match, a testimonial against an England XI in May 2002, ended in a 9–9 draw, with Le Tissier playing 45 minutes for each side, while his 10-year old son Mitchell came on as a substitute in the second half, scoring four times.[7]

After leaving Southampton, he had a brief spell with non-league side Eastleigh F.C., where he played alongside his former Southampton teammate David Hughes.[8] [9]

Throughout his career, Le Tissier had a fearsome reputation for scoring from the spot, converting 47 of the 48 penalties that he took for Southampton.[10] His sole failure to convert came on 24 March 1993 in a match against Nottingham Forest, his spot kick being saved by Forest keeper Mark Crossley,[11] the feat being so unique that Crossley describes it as the save of which he is most proud.[12]

Le Tissier made a cameo appearance for Southampton in Claus Lundekvam's testimonial against Celtic F.C., on 18 July 2008.[13] Lundekvam had previously played with him at Southampton from 1996 to 2002.

In 2010, Spanish superstar Xavi revealed that Le Tissier had been one of his childhood inspirations, claiming that: "His talent was simply out of the norm. He could simply dribble past seven or eight players but without speed - he just walked past them. For me he was sensational".[14]

International career

As a Guernseyman, he was eligible for any of the Home Nations teams. Electing to play for the England national football team, he earned eight caps over three years, but failed to score at international level.

Le Tissier was picked by the then manager Terry Venables to start the ill-fated friendly match against the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road, on 15 February 1995. With Ireland leading from a 22nd minute goal by David Kelly, a group of England fans began to riot, causing the Dutch referee Dick Jol to abandon the match.

In the run up to the 1998 World Cup, Le Tissier scored a hat-trick in a 4–1 victory for England B team against Russia B, at Loftus Road;[15] despite this, he was controversially overlooked by manager Glenn Hoddle for the final squad, a decision that the player himself cited as a hiatus in his career after which his form never fully recovered.[16] Ironically, given his reputation for penalty taking, England exited the tournament after losing to Argentina in a penalty shoot-out.

Post-retirement

Le Tissier had one of the hospitality suites at the St Mary's Stadium named after him, and also an apartment block built on the old site of The Dell.

On 7 February 2007, he had a plane in the Flybe fleet named after him, on his home island of Guernsey.[17]

On 29 June 2009, he made his debut as the guest in Dictionary Corner on the Channel 4 game show Countdown, hosted by Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling.

After Southampton's relegation to level three in 2008–09, Le Tissier initially offered to help with a bid to take over the club, but later withdrew,[18] amidst some controversy.[19]

In September 2009, Le Tissier revealed in his autobiography that he had placed a spread bet on a match he was involved in during his playing career. During an April 1995 match at Wimbledon, Le Tissier stood to win "well into four figures" after betting on the time of the first throw-in. After kicking off, he tried to overhit a pass to unsuspecting teammate Neil Shipperley, but due to nerves, underhit it and Shipperley was able to keep the ball in play. Le Tissier revealed he had "never run so much" in his life as he tried to put the ball out of play to avoid losing money, with the ball eventually going out of play after 70 seconds, meaning Le Tissier and his associates neither won nor lost money.[20]</ref> The event was investigated by Hampshire Police but the Crown Prosecution Service refused to take the case further, citing that it did "not represent appropriate use of police resources" and "would not be in the public interest".[21]

Personal life

Le Tissier married childhood sweetheart Cathy and had two children; Mitchell and Keeleigh, but the couple divorced in 1997 and Cathy and the children moved back to Guernsey.

All three of Le Tissier's brothers – Mark, Kevin and Carl – also played football, but never professionally.[22] Mark is currently Director & Football Secretary of the newly-formed Guernsey FC.[23]

Honours

Southampton F.C.
  • Full Members Cup, Finalist: 1992

References

  1. Matthew Le Tissier, Sports Illustrated, 2 June 2010}}
  2. Premier League Heroes - Le Tissier: Le God, ESPN, 10 September 2009, retrieved 24 June 2010
  3. Inspired United put the hammer down, The Birmingham Post, 3 April 2000
  4. Le Tissier caps Dell farewell, BBC, 19 May 2001
  5. Fernandes sinks Hammers, BBC, 30 January 2002
  6. Did Le Tissier fulfil his potential?, BBC, 29 March 2002]
  7. Goal feast at Le Tissier farewell, BBC, 14 May 2002
  8. Eastleigh lure Le Tissier, BBC, 13 August 2002
  9. Le Tissier coup for Eastleigh, The Telegraph, 22 October 2002
  10. Holley, Duncan and Gary Chalk, In That Number – A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC, Hagiology, 2003
  11. [http://es.eurosport.yahoo.com/futbol/ruben-uria/article/438/
  12. How to...save a penalty, The Observer, 6 January 2002
  13. Friendlies round-up, www.skysports.com, 18 July 2008
  14. [1], The Sun, 24 June 2010
  15. Le Tissier hat-trick fires England B, BBC Sport, 22 April 1998
  16. Matt: I was Tissed Off, The Sun, 25 June 2010
  17. Tiss takes off, www.saintsfc.co.uk, 7 February 2007
  18. Southampton on the brink as Matthew Le Tissier pulls out of takeover, The Guardian, 30 June 2009
  19. Football League deny Matthew Le Tissier claims, The Times, 2 June 2010
  20. Le Tissier in failed betting scam, BBC Sport, 3 September 2009
  21. Le Tissier bet inquiry is dropped, BBC, 2 June 2010
  22. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7963488.stm Succeeding was hard - Le Tissier, 25 March 2009
  23. Guernsey FC official web site

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