Maya Le Tissier hoping to pave the way for kids from the Channel Islands
Maya Le Tissier has thanked the people of Guernsey for helping make her dream come true and is hoping she can now give back by becoming a role model for children on the Channel Islands.
It is more than 25 years since someone from Guernsey represented an England men’s or women’s senior team, with the last being Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier in early 1997.
His namesake Maya, who is of no relation, could change that in the next week though after being called up for England Women’s games against Japan on Friday and Norway on Tuesday.
The Manchester United defender’s journey to the England national team was unlike anyone else in the squad.
With a population of less than 65,000 people, there were no girls’ teams for Le Tissier growing up in Guernsey so from the age of four until under-18 level, she played for her dad Darren Le Tissier’s boys’ team St Martin’s AC before setting her sights further afield.
Around the age of 11, Le Tissier visited Southampton to play for Guernsey’s boys’ team against the Saints and it was there that one of the coaches suggested she should start travelling to England to get exposure to girls’ football.
For the next two years, Le Tissier and one of her parents would fly from Guernsey to Southampton twice a month, arriving and then training on a Thursday before playing matches over the weekend for Hampshire.
In the end, having to miss out on half of the training sessions and matches meant Le Tissier was told she could no longer play for Hampshire but fortunately, it was suggested that the talented teenager link up with the South West regional talent camp.
For the next few years, Le Tissier continued to hop aboard flights to England once a month and at South West – where she would meet Katie Robinson who was also called up to the Lionesses squad for the first time in the last week – the defender impressed enough to be selected by England Under-15s.
Le Tissier’s talent eventually led to her moving away from Guernsey to join Brighton & Hove Albion at just 16 and after four hugely successful years, a transfer to Barclays Women’s Super League title-chasers Manchester United followed.
The 20-year-old has continued to impress at United and her performances were enough to persuade England head coach Sarina Wiegman to promote her from the Under-23s.
Le Tissier said: “When I was playing grassroots football, there was not really a pathway for me back home. So with the help of my parents, my family and lots of sponsors back home to keep paying for the flights, we managed to create a pathway.
Settling in 😊 pic.twitter.com/jssM876ABB— Lionesses (@Lionesses) November 9, 2022
“I had a lot of support from back home. Guernsey is a great place in terms of sponsorship and community spirit so I was very lucky.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported me, and I hope they can see that it has paid off.
“So it is quite nice to be able to set a path for others and now in the South West regional camps, there have been a couple of other Guernsey girls there and there has been another Guernsey girl in the Brighton Under-21s, so it is nice to see the path being used and hopefully it is one which helps the boys as well.
“It is really good to be a role model for girls and boys back in the Channel Islands because they don’t get that many opportunities to show what they are about. Obviously, Matt (Le Tissier) did it but that was quite a while ago so for them to see that I can do it and they can do it too, it is good for them to have something to push towards and have someone to look up to.”
Le Tissier is not the only Channel Island native who is impressing for England sides of late, with Alex Scott, who she played with back in Guernsey and who would join her on the flights over to England in their teens, helping England men’s under-19s win the U19 EUROs in the summer.
Le Tissier was speaking to the media on Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after she arrived at St George’s Park, and whilst the versatile defender has proven she is worthy of a place in the squad, she was still having to ‘pinch myself every day’ that she was going to be sharing a dressing room with some of her idols.
“I can’t actually believe that I am here. It is so cool to be here with players that I watched in the EUROs and growing up I looked up to,” she said. “It is very special for me to be here and I still can’t believe it.”
Le Tissier captained England Under-23s in September and had expected to be part of Mo Marley’s squad once again when they face Netherlands and Italy in the next week.
That was until an unexpected phone call.
“I was in the gym at Manchester United’s training ground, Carrington, and we were just doing screening in the morning like we usually do, and my manager Marc Skinner came in wearing his usual normal clothes. He is never in the gym so I thought ‘O god, what is going on here’. Marc said ‘Maya can you come outside?’ and I was like ‘O no, what is happening? Am I getting dropped or something?’
“He told me ‘Sarina Wiegman has called you up and wants to speak to you, so she is on the phone’.
A dream come true. Really excited to meet up with the team! Thank you for all the messages of support! ❤️ https://t.co/K6dVUSefmi— Maya Le Tissier (@MayaLeTissier) November 1, 2022
“I spoke to her and then messaged my Mum and Dad and my family to tell them but I couldn’t actually speak to them because I had the gym session and then a meeting. So I text them ‘Mum, Dad, I’m going to seniors’ and that was all I said. Then I left them in the dark!
“But after the day had finished, I spoke to them and they were pleased.”
Wiegman was a big advocate of the Under-23s being reinstalled after her appointment as England Women head coach back in September 2021 and would follow the WU23 players’ progress in training and matches.
The benefits of the pathway have been evident this season, with Le Tissier, Robinson, Lauren James, Jess Park and Ebony Salmon all being promoted from the Under-23s since this summer’s EUROs.
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And it was clear that Wiegman had been paying attention to the Under-23s when she spoke to Le Tissier following her call-up.
She said: “Sarina congratulated me on the call-up and said she had been watching me for a while now, especially with the Under-23s. Sarina also said she wanted my versatility on camp, so I told her ‘I don’t mind playing in goal. I don’t care. I will play anywhere because I am so happy to be here and thank you for the opportunity.’”
The call with Wiegman was then followed by another special conversation later in the day.
“When I managed to speak to my Dad on the phone he was really pleased,” Le Tissier said. “When I sent the first message, he just replied with a couple of emojis and then after that he said well done and congrats. It was really nice for me to be able to tell them and they were really happy with me.
“I sent it to them and then the next night or the next morning they had already booked their flights out to Spain, which was really nice.”
When asked about her Dad once more, she continued: “It was a special moment for both me and my dad. He coached me from the age of four at St Martin’s back home all the way through until I left the islands, so he was my main coach. When I was playing for Guernsey or a couple of teams over here I had different coaches but he was my main coach all the way through, so it was nice and I’m sure he was proud of his coaching and his efforts as well!” she added, with a laugh and a smile.
It is a smile she hopes will stay on her face over the next week in Spain, with Le Tissier stating her aim for this camp is just to ‘enjoy myself, get to know all the girls and get comfortable in the environment’.
And you wouldn’t bet against her succeeding as when it comes to hopping on a plane and excelling in a different environment, Le Tissier has already proven she has what it takes.