Football: Le Tissier proves a lore breaker

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Leeds United. .0

Southampton. . 0

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TERRY VENABLES may be keen on flair but he has long realised the need for pragmatism and technique with teeth. For every Paul Gascoigne there must be a Tony Adams, which is why the new England coach's line-up for Wednesday's match against Denmark may not include Matthew Le Tissier.

Le Tissier has thrived since Alan Ball became the Southampton manager two months ago, responding to being made club captain and given a licence to roam from just behind the strikers, in 'the hole'. It may be one into which the Channel Islander has dug himself, however.

It is a position that Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley and even David Platt, with his late runs, enjoy occupying on occasion. One more in there and it might come to resemble backstage at the Brit Awards, with egos and talents vying for attention. The need is more for a dependable crosser, which is where the Tottenham winger Darren Anderton may come in.

Yesterday at Elland Road, Le Tissier was well trailed by Chris Fairclough and though he impressed by working tirelessly in creating space for Jim Magilton, the new signing from Oxford, he had few chances to show the extravagant skills that have taken him into the England squad.

'He has had a wonderful three weeks, which have culminated in him being selected and I have been talking to him about what can happen,' Ball said.

Le Tissier will deserve an outing for England sooner rather than later, however. Languid in bearing he may be but Le Tissier is not the 'lazy sod' that the Wimbledon goalkeeper Hans Segers labelled him last week, as his continual chasing of the Leeds defenders in the cause illustrated.

'I've had to put up with this label since I was 17 that I'm lazy, inconsistent and don't have application,' he said. 'My record suggests that I am consistent.'

Indeed, although often seen as a scorer of wonderful goals rather than a wonderful scorer of goals, his record of a goal every two and a half games does indicate more involvement in matches than might be expected from the lore about him being a luxury player. It is, as the man said, bad players who are the luxury.

He has, too, shown the right attitude since his early-season disagreements with the then Saints manager Ian Branfoot, saying, 'I've lost weight. I'm quicker, I'm enjoying great form, relishing the added incentive of being club captain and want to play for England.'

He will, 'if he keeps improving his performances to go with his ability', the Leeds manager, Howard Wilkinson, said - but perhaps not at the outset. One recalls Don Revie's first match in charge of England, who were struggling to break down Czechoslovakia. On came the winger Dave Thomas after an hour to change pattern and outcome, England winning 3-0. That may be Le Tissier's fate.

Yesterday he did not look like adding to his 16 goals this season, but then no one really looked like scoring. John Lukic, having saved Iain Dowie's header, pushed the ball away as he looked like pouncing early on, and that proved to be Southampton's best chance.

For Leeds, Gary Speed met Gordon Strachan's cross with a powerful header but Dave Beasant saved excellently. And that was about that.

In what Wilkinson called a 'windy, bumpy, bobbly' match, you hoped for the old adage, that Le Tissier's skills embody, about it only taking a second to score a goal. Instead, we had the one about never getting a good game when there are crisp packets blowing on the pitch.