Meeting my footballing ‘Le God’ Matt Le Tissier

Nick Garnham, left, meets Matt Le Tissier.

Nick Garnham, left, meets Matt Le Tissier. - Credit: Archant

FIND out what happened when sports writer Nick Garnham met his footballing hero, ex-Southampton and England star Matt Le Tissier.

WHEN you have waited around two decades to meet your footballing hero, you don’t mind waiting a while longer.

Matt Le Tissier was nowhere to be seen at 6.30pm – half an hour before Felixstowe & Walton United’s 25th Sportsman’s Dinner was due to start at the Cameo Hotel, Copdock.

Le Tissier was due to be guest speaker, so I was not the only one concerned by his no-show – and the fact that entertainments agent Barry Dye could not get through to him on his mobile phone only added to the intrigue regarding his whereabouts.

He eventually strolled in at 6.55pm – clearly too late to interview him before the formal proceedings got under way.

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We were introduced to one another and I ventured to ask had he been delayed by traffic on the A12 en route from Southampton?

Looking slightly sheepish, Le Tissier said: “I won’t lie to you. I arrived in Ipswich at ten to six and went to (his former Southampton team-mate) Richard Hall’s house for a cuppa and forgot that I was doing an interview at six-thirty!”

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I chipped in that Richard was a long-time acquaintance of mine, after playing cricket in the same side as me across the road at Copdock CC, and inwardly forgave Le Tissier because of his honesty – no fending me off with a cock and bull story as some would after being caught out.

That did not alter the fact that my best laid plans to interview him had been left in tatters, but Le Tissier almost immediately redeemed himself.

“We will do it when they serve the starters – it won’t do me any harm not to have one as I am trying to lose weight,” he said.

He then posed for a photograph with me before he was introduced to the evening’s other top-table guests while I joined around 300 guests inside the main hall.

After seeing the starters delivered to the top table I made my way over towards him, not even making eye contact with legendary QPR manager Harry Redknapp, who was sat alongside Le Tissier.

My heart sank as I noticed Le Tissier had, in fact, already started to tuck into his Brussels pate with red onion marmalade. Undeterred as I approached him I said: “Is it okay to interview…”

Before I could even finish my sentence he was out of his chair and followed me outside to the foyer where we had earlier agreed to talk as it was quieter.

Conscious that time was tight I led straight in with my first question: Is the Premier League better than when you played in it?

Le Tissier: “I would imagine so. The standard of the players has got to improve with the improvements in fitness levels and the way players live their lives outside of football now, it is bound to be better.”

Bearing in mind how the game has moved on and that players are more like athletes how would he have fared today?

Le Tissier: “I would always back myself to be able to influence a football match whether I could run fast or not. If you have got enough ability you can get away without having blistering pace to influence a game.”

Does he wish he was playing today, considering the wages in the Premier League now compared to when he played?

Le Tissier: “There is a generation of players who were playing before we were who would not have minded a bit of that.

“With the amount of money they earn now comes a lot of other pressures, so I am quite happy to have played in the era that I did.

“The money players earn today would have been nice, but I have no complaints that I played in the era that I did and I am pretty happy with my life as it is now.”

Is being on Sky Sports show Gillette Soccer Saturday as much fun as it appears to be?

Le Tissier: “Yeah, what you see is what you get.

“It is a group of ex-players having a chat and craic and transferring their changing room banter to the TV screen. We all get on well and have a great laugh.”

What is the most embarrassing moment you have had on the programme?

Le Tissier: “I celebrated a Southampton goal at the back end of last season on the show and it transpired that the linesman had his flag up and it was disallowed, so I was a bit embarrassed by that.”

At this point two members of the evening’s audience came over and, whether they realised we were conducting an interview or not, asked if they could take his photograph with them.

Le Tissier duly obliged before pointing out he was indeed in the middle of an interview before sitting down and apologising before I continued.

Do you have any particular memories of playing against Ipswich Town, especially any funny incidents?

Le Tissier: “I remember we beat Ipswich 4-3 at The Dell and I scored a last-minute winner.”

I pointed out here that it was 20 years ago to the month, after researching the fact for a nostalgia feature I had recently written.

Le Tissier: “And there was a funny incident at Portman Road when we had a corner and I went to take it quickly.

“I put the ball down and went to take it short to a team-mate, but I had placed the ball too close to the flag and kicked the flag instead! I got some abuse from the Ipswich fans in that corner of the ground.

“A minute later we got another corner in the same place and this time I took the flag out which the fans thought was funny but the referee was not particularly happy!

“I scored a left-foot volley in an FA Cup third round tie at The Dell but I didn’t have much joy whenever I played at Portman Road. I do remember scoring once but we lost.”

I recalled seeing Town win 2-1 against the Saints at Portman Road in the 1994-95 season when Ipswich were relegated from the FA Carling Premiership, and Le Tissier instantly recalled goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar’s poor kick out that Alex Mathie pounced on before firing home the equaliser.

Knowing that he is now president of Guernsey FC, I asked him about their FA Vase run, bearing in mind they were due to play their semi-final, second leg tie two days later against Spennymoor Town.

Le Tissier: “Guernsey have had a cracking run in the FA Vase, but lost the first leg 3-1, so have got a lot to do if they are to get to the final.”

Will you go to the final if they reach Wembley?

Le Tissier: “I will have to get special dispensation from Sky to attend the final if they get there.” (In the event Guernsey lost the second leg 1-0 to go out 4-1 on aggregate).

Because of your Sky commitments how often do you get to see them?

Le Tissier: “I went to Egham to watch them play and I have been over to see them play in Guernsey. I hope to see about another three league games this season or even more than that.

“I have even signed back on as a player to maybe make up the numbers on the bench if I am needed.”

And with that the interview came to a close.

It was all too brief, but worth the wait, especially after all these years.

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