MATT Le Tissier has backed James Ward-Prowse to break his Saints free-kick record.

Ward-Prowse's back-to-back free kicks against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur mean he has now scored four to the 12 that Le Tissier netted during his career.

Le Tissier believes the 24 year-old will go past his tally.

The Saints legend said: “He definitely can, he’s so confident at the moment. It’s nice when you get a direct free-kick in a good position and you feel the excitement of the crowd, knowing it’s a great chance to score a goal.

“That’s the feeling I had at the peak of my career, feeling confident and the crowd sensing that. It gives you a real buzz and it’s the same now with Prowsey.

“We’ve always known how good he is from set pieces because he’s always got close to scoring free-kicks.

“They were just flying wide or grazing the post but all of a sudden they're now flying in the top corner and that’s great to see.

“It’s very much a confidence thing. Since Ralph [Hasenhuttl] took over he’s been outstanding. Certainly, in the last six to eight weeks he’s been man-of-the-match in most of the games I’ve watched him in.

"Ralph has obviously instilled a lot of belief in him and that makes a difference to a player."

Le Tissier agrees with the comparisons between Ward-Prowse’s dead-ball technique and that of David Beckham.

“He’s got that same ability to whip a ball up and down very quickly, which is a great skill to have in your armoury,” he continued.

“When David was in his first England squad, we stayed behind after training one day to practise free-kicks with Glenn Hoddle. I thought to myself ‘I’m quite good at free kicks but I’m the worst one here!’

“Prowsey also practises a lot and stays over the ball very well. That body position as he strikes the ball is very good which allows him to get that top spin on it, which is the important thing.

“It’s very much like hitting a forehand lob when you’re playing tennis. It’s the same motion but it’s a lot easier with your hand than with your foot. He's obviously practised and practised and got it down to a fine art.”

Le Tissier's first two Saints free-kicks came in in back-to-back games in the first week of 1990 and he recalls his hat-trick of dead-ball goals in a 4-3 defeat against Nottingham Forest on the first day of the 1995/96 season.

“I scored two penalties and a free-kick and was the player fouled for all three,” he laughs.

As well as admiration for recent performances, Le Tissier also had plenty of sympathy for Ward-Prowse after he was left out of Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad.

During Saints’ last three-week break, in February 1997, Le Tissier was substituted at half-time by Glenn Hoddle in a World Cup qualifier against Italy and did not play a full international again.

So there were more comparisons with Le Tissier, whose talent deserved many more than eight England caps, when Ward-Prowse was left out of the squad for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

He has plenty of time to add to the cap he won two years ago, but Le Tissier was non-plussed by Gareth Southgate’s explanation that, while admitting he is a world-class deliverer of set pieces, Ward-Prowse “has only recently got back into the team at Southampton.”

Le Tissier said: “It does seem a little bit odd given the lack of minutes the other players have had, especially the midfielders.”

Saints goals from direct free-kicks

Matt Le Tissier (12)
Charlton Athletic 2 Saints 4 (Division One; January 1, 1990).
Saints 4 Swindon Town 2 (Littlewods Cup replay; January 6, 1990).
Coventry 1 Saints 2 (Division One; October 20, 1990)*.
Saints 3 QPR 1 (Division One; November 10, 1990). 
Oldham Athletic 4 Saints 3 (Premier League; May 8, 1993). 
Newcastle United 2 Saints 1 (Premier League; January 22, 1994).
Saints 1 Wimbledon 0 (Premier League; February 26, 1994)**.
West Ham 3 Saints 3 (Premier League; May 7, 1994).
Saints 2 Aston Villa 1 (Premier League; December 19, 1994).
Saints 3 Nottingham Forest 4 (Premier League; August 18, 1995).
Saints 2 QPR 0 (Premier League; November 4, 1995).
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Saints 1 (Premier League; May 10, 1998).

*teed up by Jimmy Case/Barry Horne.
** flicked ball up and volleyed from Jim Magilton pass.

James Ward-Prowse (4)
Saints 3 West Brom 0 (Premier League; January 16, 2016).
West Brom 2 Saints 3 (Premier League; February 3, 2018).
Manchester United 3 Saints 2 (Premier League; March 2, 2019).
Saints 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (Premier League; March 9, 2019).