For once, words were unnecessary. Matthew Le Tissier, the man who wants to stay where he is, did not need to spell it out. His performance spoke for him; and the message to potential suitors was clear: do not waste your money.
It was hardly intentional, of course, but, had Southampton's gifted captain set out deliberately to dampen Jack Walker's enthusiasm, he could not have been more effective. If the gossip is to be believed, Walker would happily spend pounds 10m on bringing Le Tissier to Ewood Park but on this showing he might consider 10 pence too much.
Last season, on the same ground, Le Tissier scored a goal to rival any of those in Tony Yeboah's current repertoire, raising the clamour for Terry Venables to build England's future around him to deafening levels. But this Le Tissier was the one who slinks around the periphery of the play, shedding his cloak of anonymity only once in a while. The England coach might ask Blackburn for a video, ready for the next time someone says he is a fool to leave him out.
The man of this match, ironically, was a Norwegian, one of those whom England, without Le Tissier, did not have the craft to beat in Oslo last week. Lars Bohinen could not have cut a more contrasting figure. With a spring in his step and purpose in his stride, Blackburn's new arrival from Nottingham Forest involved himself in everything, offering a clever pass here, a change of direction there - quite the variety the champions' midfield has often lacked.
Troubled, apparently, neither by the bitterness he left behind in Nottingham over his cut-price transfer nor by the shadow cast over it by the suspended Rune Hauge, Bohinen even managed a debut goal, heading in Stuart Ripley's 19th-minute cross. Scoring was never his forte at Forest, where 64 League appearances brought only seven goals, but that may change now.
"He told me how he wanted to play, how he likes to get forward," Ray Harford, his new manager, said afterwards. "That suited us because we have needed to get midfield players into the box, to dislodge defenders, to give them something to think about other than the front players."
Bohinen saw to it that Billy McKinlay, Blackburn's pounds 1.75m signing from Dundee United, stayed on the bench. Harford had planned to swop one new boy for the other in the second half but dared not take Bohinen off. "I'd have been lynched," he said.
For different reasons, Dave Merrington was inclined to leave Le Tissier undisturbed also. "When a gifted player is going through a bad patch, all you can do is say, 'Keep going, keep working at it'," the Southampton manager said. Neil Maddison's scrambled late reply was no consolation to either of them.
There is always the chance, in any case, that something special might happen, as it almost did before Blackburn's first goal, when Le Tissier only just failed to beat Tim Flowers from 40 yards. But that it was not his day was underlined when Alan Shearer settled the match with the kind of goal in which his former team-mate specialises, a direct free-kick from 25 yards dispatched so early that no one, least of all Dave Beasant, saw it coming.
Goals: Bohinen (19) 1-0; Shearer (70) 2-0; Maddison (89) 2-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Berg, Pearce, Hendry, Kenna; Ripley, Batty, Bohinen, Sherwood; Shearer, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Newell, McKinlay, Mimms (gk).
Southampton (4-3-1-2): Beasant; Dodd, Hall, Monkou, Benali; Hughes, Widdrington (Tisdale, 59), Maddison; Le Tissier; Shipperley, Watson (Charlton, 63). Substitute not used: Grobbelaar (gk).
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).Reuse content