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Highlights on Off The Ball


Matt Le Tissier | Zero regrets, England frustration and playing to the crowd

Matt Le Tissier joined Joe Molloy on our Paddy Power special this Tuesday to chat through Southam...

Matt Le Tissier joined Joe Molloy on our Paddy Power special this Tuesday to chat through Southampton's great start to the season, and his own career with the Saints and England.

The Southampton legend looked back on his career which was famed for spectacular goals and loyalty to the cause; the attacking midfielder was a one-club man, playing more than 400 games for the club across a 16 year period.

The cult-status of Le Tissier in the 1990's was only amplified by his lack of international recognition, winning just eight caps for England between 1994 and 1997.

And looking back on that period this afternoon on OTB, Le Tissier spoke of his disappointment at the shortage of international caps he had won, but qualified it by saying he had made his peace with that period a long time ago.

"I've always said I've no regrets about my career and if I had the chance to do it all again, I'd probably pick the same route. I'm very, very happy with the way things turned out. Yes, I'd love to have had more England caps, that's the one thing I look back and think that would have been nice, but I'm also mature enough to understand that's not in my call," he said.

"I played the best I could for my team, and if that wasn't good enough for England managers, then so be it. It's something I've reconciled with quite a long time ago and I understand it was out of my hands, so it was ok to be disappointed, but it's not a regret.

"Graham Taylor put me into the first England squad, I sat on the bench when Alan Shearer made his debut and scored. I didn't get on that day, so I didn't make my debut until a couple of years later when Terry Venables was manager, so I got a couple of caps under Terry and a couple of caps under Glenn (Hoddle) but both times I was dropped without any explanation at all really," he added.

'Surely you can look someone in the eye'

With those caps coming in fits and bursts across a four season period, Le Tissier was often in and out of England squads, and says he was never given a reason for being dropped. He would simply see the squad being announced, and his name wasn't on it.

In an era where the decision of the manager was final, Le Tissier explained how he would try prove them wrong on the pitch, rather than knock on the door of a manager's office.

"I remember thinking back then that you've got to be a man about it, surely you can look someone in the eye and tell them why you're not picking them and why they're not in the squad. That was the way, he was the boss and you took his word for it and get on with it, simple as that.

"I never did that (knock on the door of a manager), whenever I got dropped my first thought would be I will just be better in training and I will go back and do extra training and I will make sure that the manager sees that I'm still here and when the time comes and the team have lost a couple of games in a row and he's under pressure, I was always lucky in the the fans always wanted me in the team.

"If I was dropped from the team and we didn't win a couple of games, there was a lot of pressure on the manager to get me back in the team, so I always kind of had that in my favour."

'I was a big head!'

That popularity with the fans came naturally to Le Tissier, who says playing to packed stadiums - whether it be at The Dell or on the road - filled his ego, feeding off the applause and the frenzy.

And while he spoke of his love for the crowd, he acknowledged that it conversely sent others into their shell, leading him to believe there are quite a few current players who are more content playing behind closed doors currently.

"It's character building, and you learned to live with it, and it just makes your achievements all the greater when you have to cope with that stuff and stick the ball in the top corner from 25 yards.

"Back in my day you'd go to Anfield, with a full stadium there and you're almost 1-0 down before you start playing. The intimidation factor is there, and some players are just - I don't think they'll ever admit it - more comfortable playing in front of an empty stadium, and I think there are players who have benefitted from that and their performances have gone up a couple of levels from when they were actually playing in front of fans.

"I loved it, the bigger the crowd the better. I was a big head! I loved entertaining people, I loved doing stuff that drew applause from people and got them on the edge of their seats and I just wanted to put a smile on people's faces really.

"Any player who says he doesn't listen to the crowd noises is a liar. You don't always hear the individual stuff but as a collective if something has happened that's really good and it gets a ripple, you definitely can't ignore it. Having an ability to put a smile on their faces was pretty special.

"The Southampton fans were always great to me. They really were. There were other players at the club who would have said something completely different but from a really young age - 17 when I made my debut - the crowd were really good to me, and they were one of the reasons why I stayed at Southampton my whole career. I always felt love from them and that made an impact on my decision to stay.

"I had the backing of the crowd so I never felt like I didn't want to try something in case I got booed. I always felt like they were on my side, and that's a big thing. And that's kind of why I reached the levels I did in creativity for the goals I scored."

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