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Q&A- Leandre Griffit

Ex-Saint Griffit talks his time at the club, Frenchmen at Southampton, Jose Fontè and Southampton's new French manager!

Griffit slide-tackles Arsenal's Freddie Ljungberg.
Griffit slide-tackles Arsenal's Freddie Ljungberg.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Southampton's appointment of Claude Puel may have come from left-field, but one ex-Saint was better placed than most to comment on the new manager and his reaction was very positive indeed.

The Saints haven't had many Frenchmen in the club's history, with Morgan Schneiderlin the only countryman to represent Les Blues whilst at St Mary's, but at one time in the early Noughties there were three in the first-team set-up; one of whom was Lèandre Griffit.

Griffit arrived in 2003 as a 19-year-old from Amiens SC, and was part of the squad for two seasons. Although the winger was not a regular at Southampton, making just seven appearances and scoring twice before departing for Elfsborg in Sweden in 2005, a quick look at his Twitter profile (below) shows he is still a big fan of the first club he played for outside of his homeland (Once a Saint, always a Saint!)

The Frenchman is also well-placed to comment on José Fonte, with Griffit playing alongside the current Saints captain at Crystal Palace in the 2007-09. Now a consultant for the media in his native France on the MLS after spells in America and Canada, Griffit took the time to answer some questions for St Mary's Musings.

SMM: You arrived at Saints in 2003 when Gordon Strachan was manager. What was he like as a manager?

LG: Gordon was a very good coach, and he gave me the chance to start against Chelsea.  He was a great manager; but sometimes very crazy in some ways!

What was the atmosphere like in the Southampton dressing room when you joined? Who were the team leaders?

The atmosphere was really good in the dressing Room. When I arrived, it was difficult to understand everything, but after about 6 months I started to understand... even the weird jokes of the English players!

James Beattie was definitely the leader though, he was a funny guy and good man.

There was fellow French-speakers in Fabrice Fernandes and Yoann Folly in the squad at the time. Did that help you to settle in?

We were 3 French players; Yohan (Folly) Fabrice (Fernandes) and me.

Fab was at the club a year before, so he helped us with many things inside football and outside football, like finding houses, good places to go and restaurants.

What is your best memory of playing for Southampton?

My best memory has to be my first goal against Blackburn; it was so crazy and my family was there to see that!

Any funny memories of your time that you can share?

I had many funny memories, we had too many to just pick one... but I have to say when I saw Theo Walcott cleaning the boots of the players; the guy was playing with us and also Cleaning our football shoes ... Very ironic, I have to say!

Who were your best mates at the club? Do you still keep in contact with anyone from Southampton now?

My best mate was Yohan Folly because he was my age, but I was also with Fitz Hall and Leon Best most of the time. Even now, we still like to talk over Twitter sometimes!

You played with current Saints captain José Fonte at Crystal Palace; what was he like then as a player, and what is it like seeing him now playing for his country, having become one of the best defenders in the Premier League?

Jose is an example for all footballers!

His hard work helped make him one of the best defenders in England. Jose is an amazing man; at Palace, every day at 5pm he was calling me to go to the gym... even the day after the game!

He was all about hard work, and I really liked his team spirit!

Are you hoping that with the appointment of Claude Puel at St Mary's that you will see more of your countrymen playing for the Saints?

I think Puel is going to bring some French players, but at Southampton they have some good young players and I am sure he is going to use them... and make them better too!

We thank Lèandre for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow him on Twitter at @elgdix!