01 June 2017
Royals' former flying winger was a welcome guest at Reading's Hogwood Training Ground last week.
Accepting an invitation from former team-mate and good friend, Michael Gilkes, saw Lee make his return to Reading's Training Ground for the first time since leaving it 27 years ago.
Now a successful football agent with specialist sports law team, Full Contact. "Gilksey and I have been firm friends since I joined Reading in 1989 and we still keep in touch." Gilksey, now Reading's Assistant under 23 head coach, invited Lee to help the club with recruitment of new players. Lee's passion is for scouting and identifying youth and raw talent, and working with a player over the long-term to assist in the development of his career.
Notable examples of his work are when Lee signed a young goalkeeper, Ben Foster, who he subsequently took to Manchester United and who later made 8 appearances for England. Lee also spotted Grant Holt's potential whilst in the lower leagues at Rochdale. Other players Lee has acted for include Svetoslav Todorov, Stephen Ireland, Paddy Kenny, Glenn Whelan, Rodrigo and Juusi Jaaskelainen. Lee's track record of identifying players in the lower or even non-leagues has continued apace.
Lee moved to Reading from Newcastle United in a £100,000 transfer deal in March 1989. He made an immediate impact by scoring on his Royals debut after only sixty seconds at home to Northampton Town. Lee soon established great rapport with the Reading fans, particularly those in the South Bank.
"I enjoyed making my runs down the wing alongside that South Terrace; I got so much support from them it raised my game. Their support once gave me the energy to sprint the entire length of the pitch, beat the defence and score against Oxford in a friendly at Elm Park!"
He also scored a vital goal in Reading's "must win" game at Chesterfield on the final day of the 1988/89 season to ensure Division Three survival. At half time they were 0-2 down, but fought back to win 4-2 with goals from Payne, Trevor Senior and two penalty goals from Stuart Beavon. Despite struggling in the lower reaches of Division Three, Lee recalls with fondness some of the great players in that Reading team.
"Trevor Senior, of course, was a phenomenal goal scorer. Gilksey and I had great rapport as he was the left back behind me. Martin Hicks was a giant of a centre half and a fantastic captain. Steve Richardson, our right back, should have played for England and probably would have done if he was a couple of inches taller". Lee says, "Do I have any regrets from my time at Elm Park ? Only that, after establishing myself as a regular in the side, I was told I had to leave. Ian Branfoot, the manager that signed me, was sacked and Ian Porterfield took over. He didn't really fancy me and had set up a deal with Veendam in Holland. Although I had a choice, the prospect of playing first division football in Holland was too tempting."
Lee played 34 times for Reading, scoring three goals. Being fluent in Dutch, he should be a success with Royals' manager Jaap Stam.
This Blog represents the personal thoughts and opinions of Richard Wickson and does not necessarily reflect the policy or views of the Reading FC Former Players' Association