Graeme Le Saux talks Champions League, Roberto Di Matteo ... and rugby
Graeme Le Saux was one the great full backs of the Premier League era. Ahead of the Champions League final JOE caught up with him to talk about his former club Chelsea.
JOE: Graeme, one of the most memorable moments in the Champions League most people have of you is fighting with your teammate David Batty on the pitch during a game. We just saw Joey Barton have the red mist descend on him again. How does that happen?
GLS: I think some players do things on the pitch like people do in their workplace, in the car, that are just unacceptable.
People can sometimes lose the plot and react in totally unacceptable ways. If it becomes a pattern of bad behaviour you should get punished. I apologized for what I did and took my punishment.
You have to have the referees fully supported and back them up with punishments so that the behaviour doesn’t happen again.
That’s all I’ve got to say on the matter.
JOE: What exactly happened with you and David Batty?
GLS: It was just a bad time.
We were playing badly in the league and in the Champions League and pressure mounted on the team and unfortunately that incident happened in the public eye.
David and I have always got on, we got on before that moment and we got on after. It’s something we both had a role in the breakdown of the relationship and we moved on and played together a lot more times with Blackburn and England.
JOE: You had happier times in the Champions League and really developed a continental-style under Gullit and Vialli that allowed you to compete in Europe...
GLS: Well certainly the influence of the foreign players at Chelsea was a great bonus. We had some great role models to look up to like Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo who obviously is the manager now.
We had some great times winning the UEFA Cup, the Champions League, the Super Cup and some domestic trophies as well. We qualified for the Champions League on two occaisions and did relatively well.
What you saw was the embryonic stage of the team you had now. After us Roman Abramovich came in and brought the infrastructure that has allowed them to reach the Champions League final this year.
It’s been a step-by-step process and it’s great that the lads get another chance to win it this Saturday.
JOE: You mentioned Roberto Di Matteo there. Did you ever think he’d be a manager? What sort of character is he?
GLS: Robbie is a very thoughtful, intelligent guy but unfortunately had his career cut short by a terrible injury and maybe that was the catalyst for him wanting to get into management.
He has approached management in a sensible way. Starting at MK Dons, moving to West Brom and getting them promoted and then becoming Chelsea assistant it was all part of a learning curve that he wanted to build-up.
No one could have foreseen what was going to happen this season, but if you look at what he’s done and how he’s got the players playing he has had an incredible season…it’s going to look great on his CV.
JOE: We all know that Roman likes high-profile managerial appointments but maybe do you think it’s time that he took Chelsea back to their roots and someone who is intrinsically linked to the club? Do you think if he wins the final that he deserves the job?
GLS: I really don’t think it’s something that he will be worrying about. He’s the kind of guy that focuses on the task at hand, but there’s nothing more he can do to influence the decision. He’s done everything he can do at this stage.
JOE: No one thought Chelsea could get this far and beat Barcelona, but they now face a really good Bayern Munich side without a lot of their first choice defence. What is it like to play in a defence like that, where the players aren’t used to playing with one another?
GLS: Well it comes down to the professionalism of the players first and foremost, but also the fact that Roberto will have known straight after the semi-final against Barcelona that this was the case and work something out on the training ground.
He will make sure that the players that are coming into the team know their roles and responsibilities, plus the squad is very experienced in any case.
I’m lucky to be going out to the final as a club ambassador and I think it will be a great final.
JOE: There’s another final on Saturday, the Heineken Cup final, are we correct in saying that you grew up in a rugby-playing area?
GLS: Yes! I grew up in Jersey and I was a fly-half. I think it’s fair to say I was a scared fly-half especially from the age of fourteen when I was still quite small and flankers and number eights were coming from scrums looking to mow me down!
I’ve always enjoyed rugby, I’m out in France doing some charity work with Lawrence Dallaglio and he’s been filling me in. I think Leinster are looking for their second in a row?
GLS: Well I’m going for Ulster, I’m going to back the younger team and the less experienced team!
JOE: You’re going for Ulster and Chelsea to win?
GLS: Ulster and Chelsea – it has a nice ring to it I think! Sorry if I have offended any Leinster fans, but I’m sure they’ll respect me for backing the underdogs!
Former Chelsea star Graeme le Saux was on hand to kick off Heineken Star Saturday. This year, the UEFA Champions League final and the Heineken Cup final both take place on the same day – Heineken Star Saturday on May 19th. Heineken invites rugby and soccer fans to enjoy the UEFA Champions League final and the Heineken Cup finals in the pub - the best stadium on earth. To register for participating Heineken Star Saturday venues across Ireland and to download a Heineken Star Card to win prizes check out:www.heineken.ie/starsaturday