BEHIND many of the world’s top footballers lies a grassroots club that made them.

For Lionel Messi, it was Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina.

Wallsend Boys Club produced the likes of Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick.

But for Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, Vale Recreation in Guernsey was where his footballing path began.

He spent nine formative years with Rec, honing a craft that would soon see the attacking midfielder go on to become a club legend at Southampton.

“They gave me a fantastic grounding in football,” he told Echosport.

“I had a couple of coaches down there and that was where I learned my skills.

“I watched on the telly, I used to watch footballers that I adored as a kid – Glenn Hoddle, Liam Brady, those kinds of players.

“I used to watch them and practised what they did on the telly with my mates down at Vale Rec.”

READ MORE: Matt Le Tissier fundraiser an 'unbelievable night'

Le Tissier’s grounding in grassroots football gives him an understanding of just how hard the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the nation’s smallest clubs, especially financially.

And so, when offered the chance to star at a fundraiser for Weymouth-based Balti Sports, ‘Le God’ jumped at the chance.

“Even before this last 18 months it was vitally important for grassroots clubs to raise money,” he said.

“It’s not easy. You need a lot of help from a lot of good people who are volunteering their services and it costs money to run these grassroots clubs.

“These evenings are really important and I’m pleased to be able to come down and help out a little bit.”

Help out he did as Balti generated more than £2,000 from the evening, funds which will go towards clubhouse refurbishments, pitch hire and new kit.

Dorset Echo: Balti Sports manager Marco Nott, left, with Matt Le Tissier Picture; OLI DICKINSON/DIFFERENT VIEW PHOTOGRAPHYBalti Sports manager Marco Nott, left, with Matt Le Tissier Picture; OLI DICKINSON/DIFFERENT VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY

This was not Le Tissier’s first visit to Weymouth, however.

Le Tissier vaguely recalls a trip to play Weymouth while with Southampton during pre-season in August 1990.

Perhaps his haziness was because he was overshadowed by Shearer that day, the striker netting a hat-trick in a 7-0 win at the Wessex Stadium.

He said: “I think we played them back in the 90s but it’s not a place I came to regularly to play, it was just the once.

“In pre-season we used to play a lot of teams around our area and we just split up into two squads, first team and reserves.

“I used to come to Weymouth as a kid when we used to come to the mainland from Guernsey.

“We always used to get the Sealink ferries. I loved it. It was a typical English seaside town, a lot of fun.

“Anywhere that had a decent beach was good for me and Weymouth certainly fulfilled that criteria.”

Le Tissier scored 209 goals for Saints in his career but eventually retired from the game in 2003 after 17 games for Eastleigh and then for good in 2013 after making a solitary appearance for Guernsey.

Faced with the crossroads of management or punditry, Le Tissier chose the latter.

“It was never really an ambition of mine to do any kind of managing,” he revealed.

“I did offer my services at one point to Southampton, back in 2005 when they were struggling halfway down the Championship.

“We’d been relegated, Harry Redknapp left and that’s when I kind of said: ‘If you’re desperate, I’ll have a go’.

“I didn’t think the club could get any worse, it was in a bad way at that stage. But I never had a great ambition to become a manager, it’s never bothered me that that hasn’t transpired.”

Le Tissier had firmly chosen punditry as his next adventure.

Dorset Echo: Matt Le Tissier entertained guests with tales of his footballing days Picture: OLI DICKINSON/DIFFERENT VIEW PHOTOGRAPHYMatt Le Tissier entertained guests with tales of his footballing days Picture: OLI DICKINSON/DIFFERENT VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY

He went on to become part of Soccer Saturday, forming an unforgettable partnership with presenter Jeff Stelling, Paul Merson, Charlie Nicholas and Phil Thompson on Sky Sports.

“Some players just leave the game altogether and don’t want to know,” he said.

“I was never going to be that kind of person, I love my football too much to not be involved in some way.

“When the media opportunities started cropping up, I jumped at the chance.

“Yes, it was my job for 17 years but really I was just a kid who loved football. To talk about it and get paid for it was pretty cool.

“We had great fun on (Soccer Saturday). We built up a really good camaraderie over a lot of years. We were there for probably the best part of 15 years.

“We knew each other like the back of our hand, what wound each other up and what we could say just to annoy the other one a little bit.

“For all the debates we had – sometimes they got a bit heated, we were strongly opinionated – it was great.

“You could disagree, move on to the next subject and it was forgotten. Everyone was mates again and it was fine. That’s the way it should be.”

Le Tissier’s connection to Stelling continued into Channel 4 gameshow Countdown, leading to a four-game stint as a player following two Dictionary Corner appearances.

“It was really weird, because Countdown was one of my favourite programmes as a kid,” he confessed.

“I’ve always had a fascination with numbers, letters and puzzles. Then Jeff became host and I was like: ‘Come on Jeff, get me in Dictionary Corner!’

“So he did and then I went on another time in Dictionary Corner. The third time I was asked to go on I said I didn’t want to be in Dictionary Corner any more.

“I wanted to be a contestant, so I told them that. They said: ‘OK, we’ll get one of our researchers to ring you up and see what you’re like’.

“You get a test on the phone, so I did that and they went: ‘Yeah, cool, you’re on!’

“I think I won three games and lost to a guy (John Hardie) who was an absolute genius and smashed me out of the park, but the first three games were fun!”

Le Tissier memorably scored two centuries on Countdown but it will always be his spectacular goals for which he is best remembered.

There have been plenty – the flick up and volley against Wimbledon; the chip against Manchester United; his majestic solo run against Newcastle.

But he singles out a screamer against Blackburn Rovers – and old chum Tim Flowers – as his best.

He said: “I have a favourite goal in terms of what I think was my best goal from a technical point of view.

“That was at Blackburn from 35 yards against Tim. I think it won BBC goal of the season that year, so that’s a cool thing to have on your CV.

“I won a few goal of the months with other goals but that one at Blackburn is the one for me that stands out as my best.”

For all the reminiscing about his best days, Le Tissier never forgets his grassroots.

His career was a treasure that illustrates the importance of grassroots and how much they now need our support in the pandemic era.