Not that I expected much more. Footballers’ autobiographies are rarely anything to write home about; in fact, in The Football Men, Simon Kuper explains in detail how many of them are really just the same.
However, for all its faults, it would be unfair to describe Taking Le Tiss as an ordinary autobiography. Despite being arguably the most talented footballer of his generation, Matt Le Tissier’s story bares no resemblance to the “climbing up the rungs of the football ladder” type journey explained by men like Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard. No, Le Tissier set his sights low, and stuck with them – satisfied with remaining at Southampton despite meager pay and even fewer opportunities for trophy glory.
The portion of the book describing Le Tissier’s career mainly consists of long winded accounts of troubles with managers, successes with manager, eulogies to Alan Ball, last day escapes and of course, self deprecating cracks involving burgers, chips and an unwillingness to exercise. It all gets old after the first ten chapters, and that’s being generous.
For about a third of the book Le Tissier’s jokes manage to conjure up amused smiles, but as Taking Le Tiss shifts into its monotonous second half, the ex pro’s comedy dies away rapidly. There are only so many times the reader can bear hearing the same joke rolled up into different words – okay Matt, you were fat, slow and ugly, we get the point.
If you’re bored and not interested in reading the whole thing though, I would recommend giving the final chapter a look; while his descriptions of season after season at Southampton bare a sort of well, erm.. repetitiveness, the portion dealing with his days at Sky does not.
After its publication in 2010, the only point of interest turned out to be an admission about a failed betting scam in the mid nineties. Le Tissier claims that he “couldn’t see the problem making a few quid on the time of the first throw in,” in a plan which ended up going disastrously wrong. From the press reaction you would have thought he’d admitted to snorting cocaine while sleeping with a prostitute hired by the owner of a Chinese gambling syndicate. In the final paper back chapter, Le Tissier writes of his surprise at the amount of furor created by the revelation, though he seems quite certain that his reputation will remain untarnished. Phew!
Personally, I found the fact that the eight or so managers he had worked under had all failed to improve his eating habits as more troubling than a bet on a throw in, but I guess everyone knew about those problems before the book was published. In the introduction, Alan Shearer describes Le Tissier’s idea of a diet as “picking the lettuce out of a burger.” Later on, it is revealed that once a doctor queried Le Tissier’s very survival, let alone his career in professional football, due to his lack of nutrition. He also admits to gaining two stone in the two months right after his retirement – great player, but not the fittest…
For me, the most important portion of the autobiography was Le Tissier’s analysis of his England career, which I felt could have been expanded somewhat, maybe taking the place of a four page rant about referees and Southampton’s inability to win penalties at Old Trafford. The current Sky pundit fails to make a definite conclusion about the reason for his exclusion from the 1998 World Cup, though he does hint that rejecting Glenn Hoddle’s Chelsea side earlier in his career might have had an impact on the then England manager’s decision.
Towards the end of the book, when the publisher clearly felt the need to add a few more chapters despite having already squeezed every last word out of Le Tissier’s career, comes a prodigiously dull ramble about Southampton and their financial trouble, during which Le Tissier writes of his concern for the side at which he made his name. The book then concludes with some cracks about Jeff Stelling’s height and a veritable love letter to the sport of golf. I think it’s safe to say that Matt Le Tissier will always be a better footballer than he is a writer. Or even long term interviewee for a ghost author.