Matt Le Tissier was the complete definition of a one-club man. His grace and poise on the football pitch could have earned him a move to almost any club on earth, but he stayed loyal to Southampton for 16 years and managed 209 goals in 540 appearances for the South Coast side.
Criminally though, ‘Le God’ only ever received eight England caps despite his huge talent, and was overlooked for Euro 96 by Terry Venables and for the 1998 World Cup squad by Glenn Hoddle.
Many would claim it was down to a lack of work-rate on Le Tissier’s part, but the man could hit a postage stamp in the top corner from 35 yards, and he proved it regularly. If he was playing today then there’s no doubt he would be better appreciated.
Now, to celebrate the former Southampton midfielder’s 50th birthday, we’ve taken a look back at our favourite goal of his, and it just so happens that the goal in question has highlighted something strange about modern football.
As a technically gifted player, set-pieces were Le Tissier’s bread and butter, but not many people would be able to impart the sort of bend on a white loaf that he surely could.
From the penalty spot, Le Tissier famously netted 47 of his 48 attempts, but it was his free-kicks that were truly special. In particular, the little flick and perfectly executed volley against Wimbledon in 1994.
On this day in 1994 Matt Le Tissier scores a wonder goal against Wimbledon. pic.twitter.com/uPxKCsSY93
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) February 26, 2018
The free-kick is just on the edge of the D and is perfectly placed for a strike at goal, but Saints man Jim Magilton ends up rolling the ball back to Le Tissier, who sets himself and strokes it beautifully into the top corner like an artist’s final flurry on a magnum opus.
While recreating the goal on Sky’s Soccer AM, the Guernsey-born attacking midfielder claimed that the idea had come from coach Lew Chatterley after he had watched a European game in the week leading up to the fixture. It now begs the question though as to just why this part of the game hasn’t developed at all for the past few decades.
After all the advancements in technology, tactics and coaching, why do we still allow players to balloon the ball into row Z 90 per cent of the time. Free-kicks are meant to be dangerous for the opposition, and yet we barely ever see a new technique being introduced.
Even Le Tissier himself only ever attempted this type of free-kick once, but he would often use a couple of players to at least move the ball sideways and create a better angle.
Sure, there are a few exceptions. Cristiano Ronaldo, David Luiz and Harry Wilson seem to be the three remaining advocates of the knuckleball, but these seem to fly over the bar more often than not. Then there was former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho, who perfected the under-the-wall strike that would embarrass defenders and always left keepers glued to the floor.
This season though, the only inventive and successful free-kick that springs to mind in the Premier League was Everton’s short routine against Le Tissier’s Southampton, that allowed Theo Walcott to stab the ball home from short range.
In January 2017, Nottingham Forest’s Ben Osborn did his best Le God impression and perfectly recreated the strike into that top right-hand corner. However, here at Football FanCast we think there needs to be more inventiveness and more creativity when it comes to set-piece routines.
England proved just how much a little bit of work on corners could do at this summer’s World Cup, so why aren’t more teams taking a leaf out of Le Tissier’s book and trying something that just might come off.