Thursday 19 April 2012
The names on the Premier League's 20 Seasons awards shortlists read like a Who's Who of football talent from the past two decades.
But only one man has earned two nominations in the Best Goal category, Southampton’s outrageously-gifted midfielder Matthew Le Tissier.
A brace of his very best strikes are on the shortlist – a mesmerising bit of ball juggling against Newcastle United in October 1993, and a stunning combination of control and shooting at Blackburn in December 1994. You can watch both goals here - along with the eight other Best Goal nominations.
"I mis-hit the shot a little bit"
- Le Tissier on his goal against Newcastle United
But the man himself is in no doubt about which way round he would rank the two sensational strikes.
"My favourite goal was the one I scored against Blackburn at Ewood Park, in 1994," he said.
"That was against my old mate Tim Flowers so that made it a little bit sweeter from about 35 yards. That was nice that one."
It is typical of Le Tissier to casually talk about a truly jaw-dropping strike as being that 'bit sweeter' from 'about 35 yards' as if it is something people do all the time.
But, as he goes on to show, Le Tissier's standards are probably not the same as those of the rest of us.
Of the Newcastle goal, he says: "That was very close to being my favourite.
"I flicked it over a couple of defenders' heads and ran and just side-footed it into the bottom corner, but I mis-hit the shot a little bit at the end which kind of stopped it from being my favourite goal really."
The fact that a goal which most footballers could only dream of scoring leaves Le Tissier slightly disappointed is of no surprise to former Southampton team-mate Iain Dowie.
The Northern Ireland international striker played with Le Tissier for four years at Southampton and saw first-hand the level at which the midfielder was operating.
"There are very few who can play like that"
- Iain Dowie on Le Tissier
"It sounds bizarre, but it’s an absolutely true story – at the training ground at Southampton he used to come out two minutes before training," he told premierleague.com.
"He’d throw a ball in the air and it would bounce on the half-way line and he’d shout 'Where d’you want it?'
"The lads would shout 'crossbar'. And six, seven, eight times out of 10 he’d hit the crossbar. To think of that - technically he was that good it was mind-blowing.
"He just had an innate ability, I’ve never seen anyone like it since, and there are very few who can play like that.
"It was just a pleasure to be involved with him."
Although Le Tissier may have been disappointed with that finish against Newcastle, he has Dowie to thank for getting the chance in the first place.
"Can you believe that I headed the ball from the touchline - and it was a very bad header. It was behind him," he said.
"Somehow, he’s backflipped it over his head, juggled it over and side-footed it in.
"But you know that’s the capability of him. And listen, I didn’t get the assist!"
At times during his career it seemed like Le Tissier – or "Le God" as the Saints fans dubbed him – was attempting to create his own personal showreel of astonishing goals.
The Channel Islander found the net 102 times in the Premier League during a career in which producing the extraordinary became something of a trademark.
"Being the person that scored the last goal in the last minute in the last game at The Dell was just very special"
- Le Tissier
But he remains Southampton through and through – and his favourite Premier League memory of them all, fittingly, is reserved for a moment towards the end of his illustrious career.
"My favourite match, personally, from purely a selfish point of view, is the last game at The Dell," he said about the dramatic final-day 3-2 win against Arsenal on 19th May 2001.
"It kind of stood out for me. Being the person that scored the last goal in the last minute in the last game at The Dell was just a very special moment that will live with me till my dying day.
"It was my last touch of the game – it was probably my last touch for Southampton, I didn’t play much the next season! It was my last goal, that’s for sure."
It was, naturally, a beauty of a strike, Le Tissier shaping improbably to fire a left-foot shot into the top corner.
But it was a fitting finale for a player who might just have scored more great Premier League goals than any other.