Matt Le Tissier

First published in Hampshire Heritage

FOR many, he was the most exceptionally gifted player ever to pull on the red and white stripes of Southampton.

But his sublime skills and incredible goal rate were not the only reason he was adored by a generation of Saints fans.

Fiercely loyal to the club throughout his career, he turned down a number of potential big money moves to stay on the south coast.

Saints fans took Matt Le Tissier to their hearts.

He was known as Le God and his goals were responsible for retaining the club's top flight status season after season.

Matt, the youngest of four brothers, showed immense sporting prowess as a youngster - excelling at cricket and golf as well as football.

To this day, he remains Guernsey's greatest-ever sporting export.

Matt was spotted by Saints while touring Hampshire with a Guernsey under 15 side and overcame initial home sickness to make his debut as a substitute away to Sheffield Wednesday in August 1986 at the tender age of 17.

He scored a hat-trick in the snow against Leicester in his first season and never looked back.

The 1990 PFA Young Player of the Year, Matt was the master of the dead ball situation and for more than a decade delighted fans with sublime strikes from corners, free kicks and penalties.

In fact, he famously only ever failed to score one penalty in a 17-year career in the top flight and entire goal of the season contests could have been devoted to his awesome strikes which always seemed to be spectacular match-winners.

From a string of unbelieveable goals, some of the more memorable were a famous double strike at Newcastle and a stunner from the half-way line at Ewood Park to beat his former team-mate Tim Flowers.

Much to the disgust of Southampton fans, Matt was overlooked by successive England managers and was selected for his country only eight times despite his immense talents.

He suffered injury setbacks towards the end of his career, but in true Roy of the Rovers fashion Southampton's favourite son came on as a substitute in the final game at The Dell in 2001 to score a spectacular winner against Arsenal and send the Dell faithful crazy.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house for that game or his 2002 sell-out testimonial at St Mary's where Matt bowed out of football as arguably Saints best player of all time with a total of 209 goals in 462 appearances for the club.

He made a brief return to football with non-league Eastleigh, played some beach and masters games and worked as an ambassador to Southampton Football Club.

Matt is also a freeman of the city of Southampton, recently had an aircraft named after him and earlier had a best-selling video and song recorded in his honour.

Away from football, Matt owned a nightclub with comedian pal Mike Osman, put his name to a website linking ex-footballers, had a radio show and occasionally caddied for his good friend golfer Richard Bland on the European tour.

He is father to Keeleigh and Mitchell by his ex-wife Cathy.

His most high-profile relationship was with Home and Away and Emmerdale actress Emily Symons.

Matt is now a popular pundit for Sky Sports.

Superbly skilful, but utterly loyal, he is virtually unique in the modern game.

Matt Le Tissier is, quite simply, a legend.

It is highly unlikely we will ever see a player like him again.

Name: Matthew Paul Le Tissier Date of birth: October 14, 1968 OCCUPATION: Professional footballer, football pundit Local link: Devoted his footballing career to Southampton FC

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