Graeme Le Saux
Graeme Le Saux is a former English left back who was born in Jersey on 17th October 1968. Le Saux took part in a soccer camp put on by Southampton at the age of 13, and after impressing for two weeks was invited back the following year. After going back the next year he was told he hadn't developed as much as they had hoped. Later he had a trial at Notts County, and also played in a testimonial for Southampton under Chris Nicholl. At the age of 17 Le Saux was offered a soccer scholarship at the Florida Institute of Technology, but Visa problems meant he wasn't able to go. He continued to play for St Pauls FC of Jersey while studying for his A levels and working part time on a fruit and veg stall. In the summer of 1987 Chelsea manager John Hollins travelled to Jersey to present some end of season awards for the island's top football clubs, and got word of Le Saux's talents. After a successful trial in July 1987 Le Saux was offered a professional contract for £120 per week at Stamford Bridge.
By the time Le Saux made his Chelsea debut in 1989 at Portsmouth, John Hollins had been replaced as manager by Bobby Campbell. The Channel Islander struggled to settle at the club and felt like an outsider. Le Saux said he felt intimidated by some of the larger than life characters such as Kerry Dixon, David Speedie and Andy Townsend who controlled the Stamford Bridge dressing room. He received homophobic abuse (despite not actually being gay) and was mocked for his privileged background and education. Bobby Campbell once told him 'You're just the product of German rape'. These comments were particularly insensitive given the fact Le Saux's mother had died when he was a youngster. It wasn't all bad though, in 1990 he signed a new contract for £400 per week. He performed well enough to be called up to the England U21 squad the same year. Le Saux scored his first Chelsea goal in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on December 26th 1989, and game which he was also spat on by Andy Gray.
Le Saux was caught up in further trouble during his first spell at Stamford Bridge. He got into a heated argument with captain Graham Roberts, who initially refused to give him his five complimentary tickets for his full debut in a Full Members Cup tie with West Ham. Roberts eventually handed over the tickets, but kicked lumps out of him the next few days in training. Le Saux was also involved in a punch up with Kerry Dixon, after he accused the veteran striker of not trying. By 1991/92 he had firmly established himself as first choice left back under new boss Ian Porterfield, following the departures of Tony Dorigo and Clive Wilson. Le Saux dropped out of the team during 1992/93 however, starting just three times in the first half of the campaign. He believed he was used as a scapegoat for Chelsea's struggles, explaining in his autobiography that senior players like Andy Townsend called the shots at the Bridge, not Porterfield. On 26th December 1992 Le Saux threw his shirt at Porterfield after being substituted in a 1-1 draw with Southampton. He was dropped for the next match, but did make a few more appearances for the club before Porterfield was sacked in February. New manager David Webb gave Le Saux a start in his first game away at Blackburn on 21st February, but by this time he was desperate to get away from the club. Webb told the former St Pauls man the next week that 'My job is to weigh up whether you will go on and do all right for yourself or if we will never hear of Graeme Le Saux again. The reason I'm letting you go is that I don't think we'll ever hear of Graeme Le Saux again'.
Le Saux signed for Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn Rovers on March 25th 1993 for a fee of £750,000 (£400,000 plus Steve Livingstone). The deadline day move almost didn't happen when the train Le Saux was travelling on broke down. He made his debut for the club in a 4-1 win over Liverpool at Ewood Park on 3rd April 1993. Le Saux made a further 8 appearances for Rovers that season as the club finished 4th in the Premiership.
Le Saux found himself much more welcome at Blackburn, getting along well with his teammates, which boosted his confidence on and off the pitch. He helped Rovers to a 2nd place finish in 1993/94. Le Saux scored his first goal for the club against former outfit Chelsea on 5th December 1993. In March 1994 he made his International debut for England in a friendly with Denmark. In 1994/95 Le Saux missed just three league games as Blackburn won their first league title in 81 years. The ex Chelsea full back contributed with three goals, including a free kick in a 3-1 win at Manchester City on 26th December 1994. He also put in the cross for Alan Shearer's goal in the penultimate game of the season against Newcastle.
Le Saux began 1995/96 well, netting a 25 yard volley for England against Brazil. That was about as good as it got however. He got into a fight with his own team mate David Batty in a Champions League group game with Spartak Moscow and broke his ankle against Middlesbrough in December. That injury ruled him out for the rest of the campaign. Le Saux spoke in his autobiography about how unhappy he was that not a single club official came to see him in hospital. He made his comeback on 17th August 1996 in a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham. Le Saux was unhappy at the club by this time however, and things only got worse when Ray Harford was replaced as manager by Tony Parkes, who the Blackburn players nicknamed BBC (Balls, bibs and cones, because that's all he used to do). The pair clashed on a number of occasions, and Le Saux eventually handed in a transfer request. Club owner Jack Walker had offered him more money to stay, but Le Saux stuck to his guns saying 'I'd be a worse person if I signed for more money'.
In the summer of 1997 Le Saux held talks with Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice following interest from Arsenal. Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan also looked at the Blackburn full back, but it was Chelsea who first had an offer accepted. He re-signed for Chelsea on 8th August 1997 and made his second debut a day later in a 3-2 loss at Coventry. Le Saux's second spell at Stamford Bridge was much more successful, with big personalities like Graham Roberts and Kerry Dixon being replaced by foreign imports like Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo. He helped the club win the League Cup and Cup Winners Cup in 1997/98, although he missed the final of the latter due to injury.
Le Saux was part of England's 22 man squad for the 1998 World Cup in France. He took part in all four games for the Three Lions, including the 2-1 defeat to Romania in the group stages. Le Saux was at fault for Romania's second goal that night, which was scored by his Chelsea teammate Dan Petrescu. He had previously provided the cross for Alan Shearer's goal in the opener against Tunisia. He went off injured in the 2nd round match against Argentina, and blamed manager Glenn Hoddle's dietary supplements and training methods, which caused his calves to cramp up.
Le Saux had another eventful season during 1998/99. He picked up a European Super Cup winners medal on 28th August following a 1-0 win against Real Madrid. On 21st September he was sent off in a 4-3 thriller at former club Blackburn following a clash with Rovers midfielder Sebastien Perez. On 27th February 1999 Le Saux elbowed Robbie Fowler in the face after the Liverpool striker had verbally abused the Chelsea man all game. It wasn't the first time Le Saux had been involved in trouble with a Liverpool player. Back in October 1997 he was involved in a clash with Paul Ince, who had put in a number of heavy challenges in a 4-2 win for Liverpool at Anfield. Le Saux took exception to this and insulted Ince's wife, which put the former Inter Milan midfield in a furious mood for the remainder of the contest. Chelsea fought for the Premiership title for much of 1998/99, but fell at the final hurdle. A 2-2 draw with Leicester in April effectively ended their challenge.
Le Saux missed much of 1999/2000, because of two more operations on his ankle. He did start in Chelsea's 5-0 win over Manchester United in October though. He made his comeback in Chelsea's victorious Charity Shield match against Man United on August 13th 2000. Gianluca Vialli was replaced as Stamford Bridge boss by Claudio Ranieri in September 2000, and Le Saux put in a great performance in his first match at Old Trafford in a 3-3 draw.
In October 2001 Le Saux refused to travel to Israel for a UEFA Cup tie with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the aftermath of 9/11. Tensions were high after the mastermind behind the attacks Osama Bin Laden said the world should blame Israel. Chelsea were a western team with an Arab airline shirt sponsor, meaning it was a potential recipe for disaster. Marcel Desailly, Emmanuel Petit, Eidur Gudjohnsen, William Gallas and Albert Ferrer also stayed at home. After Chelsea lost the tie Chairman Ken Bates blamed Le Saux, who he saw as the ringleader.
Le Saux took a dislike to Ranieri's training methods and in particular his habit of regularly rotating the starting line up and formation. He helped Chelsea reach the 2002 FA Cup final, which they lost 2-0 to Arsenal. The following season Le Saux was part of the team that qualified for the Champions League on the final day following a 2-1 win over Liverpool. The result was absolutely crucial for the club, who were facing financial meltdown had they lost. Le Saux had asked chief executive Trevor Birch for a new contract earlier in the campaign, but was told to wait and see if the club finished in the top four before they could afford a decent offer. The club did offer him a new deal, but Le Saux considered it derisory and refused to sign. Weeks later Chelsea were bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who pumped millions into the team. The club soon targeted Southampton left back Wayne Bridge, which meant Le Saux's days at the club were numbered.
Le Saux signed for Southampton on 21st July 2003 as part of the deal that saw Bridge move in the opposite direction to Stamford Bridge. He made his Saints debut on 16th August 2003 in a 2-2 draw at Leicester. Despite his advancing age, Le Saux proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Bridge, and was arguably the clubs best outfield player during 2003/04. He scored his first goal from a free kick in a League Cup tie at Bristol City on 28th October 2003. Le Saux enjoyed working with manager Gordon Strachan, but said he struggled with the fact the club only had ambitions to get over 40 points and do as well as they could. The former Chelsea full back had become accustomed to challenging for trophies every season, so dropping down to a club with less ambition was a bit of a culture shock. Le Saux said of his teammates "It wasn't that the players at Southampton weren't good. It was just that they weren't as consistently good as the players I'd been with at Chelsea and Blackburn". Paul Sturrock took over the club in March 2004 after Strachan's resignation, an appointment Le Saux described as 'underwhelming'. Le Saux said of Sturrock in his autobiography that "he didn't have a lot of charisma and he didn't connect with the players in the way Strachan had".
Le Saux form dipped at the start of the 2004/05 partly because of a number of niggling injuries. He took Southampton's poor form personally. He explained in his autobiography "We tried to put the brakes on many times. We had meetings and chats and the lads were desperately trying. The club was being mismanaged at the time. My relationship with Rupert (Lowe) was very good on a personal level, but there was a lot of resentment from some of the players". Le Saux's form improved from December following the arrival of Harry Redknapp. He explained that Redknapp gave everyone a lift on his arrival, and created a positive, happy environment. Le Saux said training was more enjoyable under the former Pompey boss, but also spoke of how he wasn't as tactically astute as he originally imagined. Le Saux scored in the penultimate home match of the season, a crucial relegation battle with Norwich which Saints won 4-3. That wasn't enough to keep the club up however. Southampton were relegated following a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United on 15th May 2005. It was Le Saux's final match in football.
Following his retirement from playing Le Saux went to work for the BBC as a pundit and commentator. He quit the organisation prior to the 2006 World Cup, after the BBC went back on their word and appointed Mark Lawrenson as lead analyst on England games with John Motson. Since leaving the BBC Le Saux has worked as a pundit for ITV.