Taking Le Tiss

by Matt Le Tissier
by Writers Name
Harper Sport, £18.99
Reviewed by Tim Springett
From WSC 279 May 2010

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In keeping with his career, Matt Le Tissier’s autobiography is an interesting read but doesn’t truly satisfy. One reason for this is that both the front and back covers, as well as the internal layout,
look appalling.

Another is that it plays up to its subject’s laid-back, nutritionally-challenged image right from the start and continues long after the joke has become tiresome. This detracts from genuine laugh-out-loud quips – when Graham Poll passed a frozen pitch fit for a Reading v Southampton Cup tie, stating that it would be quite safe if the players went at it at 90 per cent, Le Tiss replied that he wasn’t going to raise his workrate for anyone.

At least Le Tissier has not fallen into the trap of using his autobiography to settle old scores, however tempting it might have been. Naturally, plenty of space is devoted to his views on managers with whom he clashed – Ian Branfoot, Terry Venables and, especially, Glenn Hoddle. However, differences are kept to football matters and Matt clearly doesn’t like to be on anybody’s wrong side. He makes a point of stating that he liked Branfoot personally and reveals that he has made his peace with Hoddle, even taking responsibility for the bad feeling that had existed between them when he probably had no need to do so.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t hold back from giving his thoughts on his England appearances. He believes that he was put in to fail, being picked by Venables to start only against Romania and Ireland – probably England’s toughest opponents in the pre-Euro 96 build-up – rather than being given an opportunity to shape an England game. He also claims that, in the Romania match, established team-mates were reluctant to pass to him, lest he upstage them. A pertinent observation or unjustified paranoia?

Similarly, when he was picked for an England B game versus Russia two months before France 98, he suspects Hoddle hoped he would fail to impress so that he would have no reason to consider him for his squad. Matt, however, hit a hat-trick but this simply led to Hoddle making all manner of implausible excuses for leaving him at home. The rejection hit him hard and he was never the same player again.

As the book meanders through Matt’s playing days, the occasional flash of humour creeps in, often catching the reader by surprise. In a chapter on his disciplinary record, he recalls a booking for fouling Ian Rush – following up by vouchsafing that normally the only reason he would approach Rush would be to compare noses. The book concludes with 70 pages of tributes from others but before then there is a lot of material, including historical narrative, that one suspects are not the thoughts or words of Matt. Disappointingly, little space is given to Le Tissier’s take on the takeover of Saints in summer 2009, especially as he was fronting a group that actually held preferred bidder status at one point.

Taking Le Tiss is above average as football autobiographies go but Matt is a cerebral, reflective type and this laddish, repetitive effort – rather like his haul of England caps – does not do him justice.

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