Premier League icon: Matt Le Tissier
With a month to go until the start of the new domestic football season, Total Football’s Simon Wright is taking a looking back at the players, teams and goals that have lit up the 20 years of the Premier League.
Matt Le Tissier was a perfect example of a one-man club. He attracted criticism at times for his fitness levels, but Matt Le Tissier is one of the classiest players to have ever graced the Premier League.
Name: Matt Le Tissier
Clubs he played for in the Premier League: Southampton (1992-2002)
Honours: PFA Young Player of the Year 1990, Match of the Day Goal of the Season 1994-95
PL Appearances: 270
PL Goals: 101
If you were ranking players by the levels of fitness they achieved, Matt Le Tissier would probably be near the bottom of the list.
Technically though, he was one of the best and gave the Southampton fans many glorious memories during his career. On many occasions, his genius kept them up in the Premier League.
The first midfielder to score 100 goals in the Premier League, Le Tissier has left fans with many memories and he still provides plenty of laughs nowadays as a regular pundit on Sky Sports with the Gillette Soccer Saturday team.
As often called by the fans on the South Coast ‘Saint Le Tiss,’ he signed for Southampton back in 1986 and had an immediate impact.
His 20 goals in the 1989-90 campaign saw him recognised by his fellow peers, winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
15 goals in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992-93 included a final day hat-trick in a losing cause against Oldham Athletic.
His form at the start of the following season was not good, despite a brace against newly promoted Swindon but fans were outraged when manager Ian Branfoot dropped him from the side at the end of September.
He reckoned Le Tissier’s lack of performance was down to his lazy attitude on the training pitch. When results didn’t improve and the club slid into the bottom three, he was forced to swallow his pride and recall Le Tissier for a home match with Newcastle In October 1993.
In this match, he produced two memorable goals, which are still replayed often today. The first saw him collect a knockdown from Iain Dowie and flick the ball past Barry Venison.
Kevin Scott committed himself and Le Tissier flicked the ball over his head, before calmly stroking the ball in past a bewildered Mike Hooper.
It was a cracking piece of individual brilliance and is one of my favourite top three goals in Premier League history.
A quarter of an hour later, the game was deadlocked at 1-1 when Neil Maddison headed the ball to Le Tissier. A quick bit of keepy uppy followed, before a crisp strike over the top of Hooper.
His season took off after that, scoring 25 in total, which kept Southampton alive in the top flight, whilst the unpopular Branfoot lost his job in January and was replaced by Alan Ball.
Brilliance at Blackburn
It was more of the same the following season, although the club finished in a more comfortable mid-table position.
At Blackburn, he scored another brilliant goal, which the man actually ranks is one of his best.
A weaving run in the middle of the park saw him turn Paul Warhurst inside out twice, before launching a dipping strike which beat his former team-mate Tim Flowers comprehensively.
Southampton lost the match 3-2 but Le Tissier’s magic won him the Match of the Day Goal of the Season award as voted by BBC viewers.
These two seasons were Le Tissier at his prime best, as injuries and loss of form took hold afterwards, including a red card at home to Liverpool in October 1995, the only one in his Premier League career.
In April 2000, he scored a penalty in a match with Sunderland, which saw him complete the special milestone of reaching 100 Premier League goals.
Fitting ending to The Dell
After 103 years, Southampton said goodbye to The Dell in May 2001 to move into a new home at St. Mary’s.
Le Tissier’s role had been restricted for a number of years but he provided the fitting ending to the ground, in a cameo position.
Matt came off the bench and scored a superb 90th minute winner to defeat Arsenal 3-2. It turned out to be his last goal in professional football. Sometimes, you can’t write better scripts than what happened that day.
Le Tissier made fleeting appearances the following season, announcing his retirement in March 2002 after the recurrence of a long-term calf injury in a reserves match.
His legacy on the South Coast remains, having an apartment block built on the old site at The Dell, named Le Tissier Court and his own hospitality suite at the new stadium.
Since 2008, he has become a regular pundit on Soccer Saturday alongside Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson, Paul Merson and Tony Cottee.
Matt Le Tissier didn’t endear himself to everyone but no-one could take away his quality ability with a football. He left some great memories which are still looked back fondly today.
NEXT TIME ON PREMIER LEAGUE ICONS: A controversial move across North London that paid off hugely for this intimidating defender, Sol Campbell
By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88
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