Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sporting Heroes : Matthew Le Tissier

Matthew Le Tissier - Southampton and England footballer.

Every Saturday night for as long as I can remember during football (soccer) season, the BBC ran a show called "Match of the Day". It was a one hour highlights show featuring the best of the day's action in the English Premiership (and before it the old first division), and I watched it religiously. If I was out on a Saturday night, I would tape it and watch it when I got home (or while nursing a hangover in the morning).

In the early-to-mid 1990s, there were always certain flair players you looked out for - people like Steve McManaman, Ryan Giggs, David Ginola, Eric Cantona (later David Beckham) and Paul Merson who could mesmerize you with their artistry on the ball (these were the days when there was still a majority of British players in most Premiership teams). But more than any of the others there was Matthew Le Tissier.

Everything about him was different, from his languid "lazy" style to the effortless accuracy of his shooting - like all the best players, he made it look so easy. He played for an unfashionable team which was forever struggling (he was pursued by some of the biggest spending clubs in the sport but remained loyal to Southampton). For this loyalty, and for his sheer talent and audacity (year after year he almost single handedly saved the club from relegation) he became a legend at "the Dell". Every week I would look forward to the Southampton match more than any other just to see what trickery or wonder goal he would pull out of the hat. A genius of a footballer, you could build a team around him (which Southampton did), but his talents were shamefully ignored by a progression of England managers who could not understand his unique gifts or fit him into their system. He won only 8 caps as a bit-part player, and we will never know whether he could have transferred his club skill onto the International stage. Maybe that's part of his mystique and why I found him so interesting.

So, for lighting up "the beautiful game", making me care passionately about the fortunes of a small town football club on the South Coast, and just for having the guts to "be different", the first entry in my sporting heroes list is Matthew Le Tissier.


steve said...

Excellent video! Certainly took me back a few years...

Did you ever watch Superstars? Watch a great program! My mum sent me the BBC highlights DVD of the show for Christmas - brought back all kinds of memories.

Looking forward to the rest of the series,


Mark said...

Superstars - wow, now there's a blast from the past. All the way back to the 1970s. I do have vague memories of Brian Jacks, and also something about Kevin Keegan falling off his bike?

brendaontheRun said...

Now I can't get the theme song of "Match of the Day" out of my head!
I was a Liverpool fan when I was a kid!

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