With more than 400 appearances to his name, former Southampton captain Claus Lundekvam is a true legend of the club. Here, he reflects on the fondest memories of his 12-year stay in red and white…
It’s difficult to pinpoint one game, but if I had to choose one that I still think about, it would be the last game at The Dell. It was a fairy-tale ending. Me and Matthew (Le Tissier) were really close at the time – I think he had just bought my house in Ocean Village, so we were hanging out quite a lot together. To beat Arsenal 3-2 with him scoring the last ever goal at The Dell was something special. I think I’ve said before that I had a bet with him; if he won the game for us, I would buy him a case of Malibu and coke! That last league game couldn’t have ended in a better way than with the legend himself scoring the last winning goal.
That last game was definitely one of them, but I also have to mention the Man United game – the 6-3. It was a crazy game to play. Beating Man United at that time was something special, but 6-3 was unbelievable.
For me, as a Norwegian player, everyone saw me as an adopted Englishman, so staying loyal to the club over 12 years is the achievement I’m most proud of. I was club captain for many years, which, being a foreign player, was something special. At the end of my career I had to retire due to a bad ankle, and coming back for one last time in my testimonial game was also one of the proudest moments in my footballing career, because of the relationship with the supporters.
Matthew Le Tissier was the most gifted – he was special. As a finisher, he was world class. I had heard about him, but to be honest I knew very little about Southampton before I came – everything happened pretty quickly. Graeme Souness bought me and I was only there for two or three days before I made my debut against Nottingham Forest.
I had quite a few. Me and Matt were roommates for a while, but there was also Michael Svensson, Anders Svensson, Paul Telfer, Wayne Bridge, James Beattie… I remember Paul Telfer was really relaxed and calm, which I liked because that was the same as me. James Beattie was a bit more active, but he was a good lad and I’m still in contact with him.
I would say Richard Dryden. We called him ‘Trigger’ after the Only Fools and Horses character. He was a really kind, good guy, but unbelievably clumsy and forgetful, which was really funny. We had a lot of laughs with him in the dressing room and socially.
Including caretaker managers, I think I had 10 of them! I learned something from every one of them – in a good way and not such a good way, they were all different. From Harry Redknapp to Glenn Hoddle was quite a different approach. The best years, sporting-wise, were under Gordon Strachan. I liked Strach – he was really clear. Tough, but honest and fair. We hated him for the first few months he was there, because the training was so hard! He ran us senseless for the first few months, but after a while we saw the benefits of it.
Best team talk?
I do remember a few, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to mention them! There were a few managers that were quite angry in the dressing room at half time and full time. I liked the passion and seeing that they really cared, but a few times it could boil over and a few of the players took a lot of stick. It was very different from Graeme Souness and Gordon Strachan, who were very vocal and passionate, to Glenn Hoddle, who was more controlled and calm.
Best home stadium?
I love both of them! The Dell had something special – something in the water, history-wise. Every club and every player hated coming down and playing there, which we used to our advantage. But we were growing as a club and it was crucial to move into a bigger, better stadium to attract more supporters, and I have very fond memories of St Mary’s as well.
I’m going to have to say 2002/03 with the FA Cup final and a top 10 finish. I was voted the best player in Norway in 2003 and 2004, so I think those were my best years as a player as well.
Best personal performance?
I had a few man of the match games, and one I do remember is an away game at White Hart Lane. Glenn Hoddle had left to go to Tottenham and taken Dean Richards with him – rest in peace, Deano. We beat them 3-1, and I remember having a good game myself.
Best opposition team?
In my days of playing for Southampton, there are two great teams that stand out. When I first arrived, Man United were unbelievably good – they won everything. After them, I have to mention Arsenal, from around 2002 to 2004. The team they had was unbelievable, with Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira… so many good players.
Best opposition player?
I feel blessed to have played against so many world-class strikers, but my answer to this question has always been Thierry Henry. On his day, he was unplayable. Just awesome. To play against a striker who was so quick but so clever, with his abilities… he was probably the one I struggled with the most.
Best away day?
I loved White Hart Lane. My grandmother was born and raised in Liverpool, so I grew up as a Liverpool fan, and Anfield was special for me. I liked those sorts of stadiums where you had contact with the spectators. Playing at Old Trafford was special, but it was so huge that it felt different.
Best thing about Southampton?
It was a club that always looked after each other. On paper we were relegated before the season started in my first five or six years, but we had something special in the group. It was a family club, and the thing I miss the most is the dressing room. I think that was one of the main reasons we stayed up in those first few seasons I was there.