Richard Lee's career came to an end after Brentford were beaten by Middlesbrough just over a week ago.
The goalkeeper started out with Watford and made 92 league appearances for the club after making his debut in 2003.
He spent time on loan at Blackburn in the 2005/06 season but didn't make a single appearance for Rovers as the Hornets won promotion.
Lee returned to Vicarage Road in 2006 with the Hornets in the Premier League and made his top flight debut against Manchester United.
After four more seasons with the club he moved to Brentford and, after a difficult start, became a fans' favourite after his penalty saving heroics against Everton.
He drifted out of the first team picture after the rise of Simon Moore and David Button and elected to retire at the end of the season to focus on other avenues.
On the first normal day of his retirement, Lee spoke with GetWestLondon and reflected on his career.
Starting out and catching Watford’s eye
I started playing football for Bedgrove Dynamos when I was six. I used to be a left winger but wasn’t very good. When I was eight the goalkeeper didn’t want to play there so I tried out. I didn’t get it but the one who did wanted to come back on field so I went in goal.
I just took to it. I loved being the last line of defence and throwing myself around. I saw I was quite good at it. A scout watched one of our games when I was 10-years-old and a lot of us got trials from it. We won 10-0 and I didn’t touch the ball but my manager at the time put me forward.
I went to their centre of excellence in Aylesbury where I lived week after week. I continued to improve and that kicked on. I went to Watford to train and thankfully managers kept taking to me. Before I knew it I signed apprenticeship forms and cracked on from there.
First team debut v Preston
I found out at the pre-match meal and we’d made the quarter final of the FA Cup. It was the midweek game before the quarter final. I was sat there and the manager said I was playing tonight.
I went to call my dad but Kevin Hitchcock had told him it was happening. I didn’t have enough time to get nervous. We lost 1-0 and I should have saved the penalty but I got man of the match.
I kept clean sheets in my next three games so it was a really good start to my career. I got called up to the U21s which was fun as well.
The breakthrough season
Just as my chance was coming the season before, I split my upper arm and my humerus bone. The following season I got my breakthrough. Alec Chamberlain went down with an injury and we made the semi final in the league cup.
I’d played some big games and it had gone perfectly but I made a save and a defender hurdled me and broke my cheek and my eye.
I came back for a few games only to tear a ligament in my knee. I look back on that season fondly but I broke my eye-cheek, ruptured my bicep and my knee, it was a bittersweet season for me which I put down to bad luck at the time.
Loan move to Blackburn
In hindsight, I don’t regret making the move. I thought it was a good decision as I knew Ben Foster was coming in. It was a shame I couldn’t break in as Brad Friedel was excellent and Peter Enckelman was very good. I learnt a lot from Brad but I didn’t get an opportunity there. Brad was the model of consistency.
I considered Brad to be old then but to have carried on like he has done doesn’t surprise me as he’s very fit. To play to that age is phenomenal. He was a great role-model for me and many aspiring goalkeeper. He’s a really good person.
Premier League with Watford
From a frustrating season at Blackburn it kicked back into place in the Premier League. I knew it was going to be tough to win Aidy Boothroyd over and I had to work hard and a few things went in my favour and I ended up playing in the Premier League.
I made my first appearance against Manchester United. I got Van der Sar’s shirt at the end of the game. To be playing a Premier League game it was what you dream of as a kid. It was a really nice feeling. It was everything I’d dreamt of. I kept three clean sheets and we had a great victory over Boro, a 0-0 at Manchester City and got to play Man United three times.
I highlight those games. To play at Old Trafford was a dream come true. We lost 2-1 at Vicarage Road and the away game was in January before the FA Cup game was in March/April time. It was a good season and that was a springboard to the following season.
From leading Watford to warming the bench
I was captain for several games and got a lot of clean sheets. It was bittersweet because we lost to Hull in the play-offs. I made a mistake in that game but after a positive couple of years I didn’t finish in a good way as it led to the couple of seasons of warming the bench.
From being on the verge of the Premier League to being a number two; it gave me the biggest life lessons but it was a shame. I came back from the Hull game and only played a handful of games between then and leaving Watford. I remember the three games I came off the bench; Sheffield United, Portsmouth and Colchester.
I did well in those games but don’t know if that did me any favours as I’d be seen as a good back up. I backed up Alec Chamberlain and he won player of the season, I backed up Ben Foster and he won an England cap, I backed up Scott Loach and he got an England cap. I guess because I never kicked up much of a fuss and I wanted those guys to do well it didn’t help my cause.
I enjoyed helping them get the mindset needed to play their best football. I’d like to think I was a positive influence of them.
I had started Dr Cap and went on Dragon’s Den. The birth of GK Icon was in those two years and I started to consider my future and needed something alongside football. I would urge footballers to do something alongside to think about the future. By the time I joined Brentford I had a couple of things to do as well as play.
Joining Brentford and having second thoughts
There were moments where I thought I’d made a huge mistake. I was offered a contract at Watford and could have been a number two in the Championship but I was even being a number three at a club that at the time wasn’t in the same league as the club in the setup, style.
It was a car crash. I didn’t have a good start but things I was told (by Andy Scott) didn’t ring true. I used it positively to come back and have a very good season but I was questioning what I had done. There were a few things like the initial meet. In the first day of training I was asked to do a 6,000m run which I would struggle with with my knee problems.
I was given two pre-season games after two years of barely playing and, after that, I was relying on cup games. He gave me my chance but more out of necessity when Ben Hamer got stuck in traffic and didn’t turn up on time.
I used that as a drive and set out to prove him wrong. I don’t think he was a bad person. Unfortunately he hasn’t improved his skills yet but I hope he does as there were certain parts that were very good.
Another injury nightmare
After the early issues, I was playing regularly and finding consistency. It was a consistent season. Nicky Forster and Mark Warburton came in and we got a sign of Warbs’ talent then.
It was a shame to have my biggest day in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final denied to be because of the injury against Leyton Orient. I came out and made a save and to dislocate my shoulder was awful.
It signalled the start of my shoulder injuries. The right shoulder then got gradually worse and it was frustrating from that point on.
Rosler takes over
He said he was happy with the goalkeepers and he was true to his word. I’ve got a lot of time for Uwe. We had a couple of run-ins. He told you his thoughts to your face. We can take honesty if we don’t agree.
I played a lot of games and had another solid season that was pretty much injury free until the shoulder cost me a few games. I had a solid season and a lot of games. It was a shame we missed out on the play-offs.
Number two again
I came back from the shoulder injury and Simon Moore came in. I was delighted with how he kicked on. I played a few games from then. We did well when I played, winning at Portsmouth and I kept clean sheets. I was pleased with my contributions. I had no qualms with Si playing and he deserved his spot. He got his move and then I remember having small issues with the shoulder and it haunted me since when I would need the operation later on that season.
I knew I needed the operation and in March it snapped and the shoulder needed to be reconstructed. I knew they’d bring someone in and David Button was very good. I had a chance after he was sent off and I was pleased with how it went. We beat Tranmere, lost to Orient and beat Coventry.
I look back and they were vital games. I had another game at Bristol which we won. They were big games and we kicked on and were able to get promotion. I thought I might have been given a chance but Butts kicked on and has done very well ever since.
While I didn’t play as many games as I would like. I’m pleased for the club and the owner. I’ve got nothing but gratitude to the Brentford fans. They took to me and made me secure every time I played. After the start I had they could have dismissed me but they gave me another chance. I’m excited to go back there next season. It’s a great club and the club is in for big things.
The final season
It was a shame not be involved as much as I liked. I knew early on I wasn’t where I needed to be and had to be honest with the management and I was really pleased with the management.
The Dagenham game was a weird one to look back on. I made two mistakes which I wasn’t happy with and we won on penalties. It didn’t feel right. I didn’t get the buzz I used to get. I’d have a certain amount of excitement and when we won the shoot-out and they were singing my name afterwards.
I was so grateful for the fans’ support but I didn’t have the buzz. I did some soul searching and made the decision. I didn’t want to be a goalkeeper that plays in the lower leagues so I’d rather delve in other things. I want to be playing tennis and golf in the other years. I might be too late with my knee anyway. My body isn’t in horrendous shape and I can enjoy life after football.
A late twist and a loan to Fulham
The experience was great. It was a random occurrence. I was in Dubai on my own to chill out. The call came through from them and I thought ‘It’s drawing to a close and I can have a last hurrah or fling.’ There was a chance I could get a game and it’d be a bit of fun so why not?
I got a bit of stick but Brentford fans are reasonable people and wished me well. One or two didn’t but that’s football. I’ve got nothing but love for Brentford so it was the last bit of excitement where I could play football.
I met some good people and it was an interesting time. Making the play-offs meant I could come back and spend time with the Brentford lads before calling it a day. My move shows how far Brentford have come in loaning players to Fulham.
The next step
I want to do a bit of media work. GK Icon is running nicely and I’ll be speaking to a couple of franchisees. My coffee business, Organo Gold has exploded. It’s something I’m passionate about and I get to lead a big team of people. I wanted to be my own boss and I now am and can structure my day as I want.
With Organo Gold I’m working alongside David Hunt. I also work with Scott Barron. I’ll miss certain parts of football and can live the life I want to live. I’m really lucky.
You can see Richard Lee's composite team from his career in our gallery below: