In May 2001, Southampton were about to bid farewell to The Dell; the ground they had played their football at for over 100 years. Their new state-of-the-art stadium at St Mary’s was ready for use at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.
Their final match at the historic, tight ground would be against Arsenal and fittingly, the final say had to go to the player Saints fans called ‘Le God.’
Over the years, Matt Le Tissier had scored a glut of sensational goals. A series of special free-kicks, a long-distance stunning away strike at Blackburn Rovers and a fabulous individual solo effort at home to Newcastle United in October 1993 were among some of the best. By the time the 2001 season ended, injuries meant his role was now restricted to limited substitute appearances. He came on in the 74th minute to a rapturous reception and he wasn’t going to leave it at that.
With the scoreline at 2-2 in the closing stages, James Beattie won the ball in the air and when Martin Keown failed to clear, the ball sat up perfectly for Le Tissier. He struck a beautiful left-foot shot on the half-volley and it flew past Alex Manninger.
The ground erupted in noise and ecstasy as he was mobbed by his teammates. Afterwards, he said: “It’s very special to score the last goal and I couldn’t have imagined a better ending. But I don’t see why I can’t score the first goal at the new stadium as well,”
Unfortunately, he would never score another goal in professional football and retired in 2002 but what a way to finish football at The Dell for Southampton’s greatest player.