Richard Lee announces retirement – exclusive interview

2 Jan

Since summer 2010, goalkeeper Richard Lee has been a permanent fixture in the Brentford squad. Such is his experience that only Toumani, Kevin O’Connor and Sam Saunders have been here longer. However, as you may have seen this morning, the club have announced that Richard is set to retire at the end of the season (something he confirmed on his own blog site yesterday).

Brentford's number 1

Brentford’s number 1

Indeed, Richard was recently the subject of an excellent article on the BBC website in regards to the role of a ‘back up’ goalkeeper which hinted at this, including the somewhat telling line, “injury problems have all but resigned him to retiring at the end of the season”.

The Last Word was fortunate enough to catch up with Richard this week to find out more about this news and whether Brentford fans should be bracing themselves for a tearful farewell.

In an honest and open interview, he gives his perspective on just what has prompted this decision aswell as sharing several highlights from last season and his broader career.

Richard, we’ll get to Brentford shortly but firstly I have to ask. Retirement – what has prompted this decision? Is it simply down to injury? Injury has certainly played a role as it has affected my enjoyment of the game. I now link pain to playing football which in turn has knocked both my confidence and motivation for the game.

I’m struggling to reach the heights of years gone by so think it best to call it a day. I made this decision in September and discussed it with the BFC staff then, who have been great but I haven’t really discussed it with anyone else.

Has the form of David Button played any part in this? No not at all. I’m really close with David and have been delighted to see him flourish in the way that he has. My battle has always been with myself, not a competing goalkeeper.

Are you currently fit enough for selection? Given retirement is now on the cards, Brentford fans would, I am sure, like the chance to say farewell. Yes I am, I’ve trained most days for a while now as well as having played a few development games so I am available for selection. Of course I’d love to get the opportunity at some point to say a proper farewell.

The BBC interview also included a quote from you saying ,” Part of me did become used to being a number two. It’s an easy role “. Whilst it may have been ‘easy’, I can’t imagine it was a very palatable one relative to playing. How keen have you been to get back into the team? That’s my one disappointment in my career, I haven’t played enough football.

I never consciously meant to do this but often if I had a dip or made a mistake I didn’t deal with it at all well and soon found my way back to the bench. The crazy thing is that as soon as I was out of the team I was always then really keen to be back in it!

Away from Griffin Park, you’ve already played at a higher level but given the buzz around TW8 at the moment, you must still be chomping at the bit to taste Championship action with Brentford? This season’s been incredible so far, the way in which we’ve outplayed some massive clubs and to be in the play-off spots heading into the new year is a compliment to everyone involved at BFC. I am disappointed that I haven’t yet been able to play with this particular team and if the opportunity does come then of course I’ll give everything I have to aid the team in any way that I can.

What is the atmosphere currently like in the dressing room and how much can you join in on matchday? There is an air of excitement. Ordinarily on a match day I’ll be in the changing room prior to kick off speaking to a few of the lads individually, in particular David Button and trying to help wherever I can but there is only so much you can do. More often than not I then go and help Mark Burridge on BeesPlayer, something which I’ve really enjoyed doing.

Do you have any desire to stay involved at club level after the season ends, for example in a coaching role, whether at Brentford or elsewhere ? I want to be involved in football for sure but I don’t think full time coaching is for me. I’ve got my goalkeeping business ( that allows me to coach goalkeepers on a regular basis and I’ll no doubt give this more time. To be honest I’ve always loved the idea of spending a lot of time working for myself so intend to do this.

Aswell as the BBC interview, we’ve also seen your recent interview with Ben Foster on Sky Sports and, of course, you’ve popped up on Beesplayer several times. Is a role in the media your next career step and, if so, where do your preferences lie in regards to that – presenting, punditry, analysis etc ? I would love to do that however I’m appreciative that it’s a very competitive world and I’m not a household name, so I wouldn’t have the ability to walk into a well paid role in media.

I have however gained a degree in media over the last couple of years so I’m hoping that will help me delve into that world. My dream job would be in regards to analysing goalkeepers as there’s no one that does this to a high level at the moment. However I’m not sure if anyone’s looking for a pundit who focuses specifically on goalkeepers!

You have also written a lot – the Daily Mail column as well as your book, Graduation, spring instantly to mind. What can we expect from you next in this field ? This will depend on opportunity. I do enjoy writing so am open to something that offers me the chance to do this. I’d like to contribute to my blog ( more often but this is something that depends on free time.

If not (or aswell as) the media, where do you see your future lying? You’ve always been somebody with your fingers in many pies and I can’t imagine this will change ? No it won’t, I like the idea of a varied lifestyle and my business ventures offer me this ( I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of taking an idea and forming it into a profitable business, it’s something that really challenges me and gives me a buzz. It’s something that I’d like to help others do too.

When we spoke last time, you pinpointed the Everton cup game as the highlight of your Brentford career, to that date. Did being part of the promotion winning squad surpass it or is it really just about being on the pitch? The experience of last season was incredible, to have been involved in such a talented, driven and committed squad was something truly special. Any footballer will tell you that your biggest memories in football will always been memories of games you played.

I sat on the bench for Ben Foster in the Premier League 26 times yet I don’t remember a single scoreline. However I could tell you all about the 11 games I did play in specific detail.

And looking back over your entire career, what would you say was THE standout moment? It would have to be the moment Jagielka hit the post in that Everton game. In that moment everything changed and I’ll never forget running away in celebration whilst it seemed everyone at Griffin Park was flooding onto the pitch.

I’ve never had a high like it, incredible. In terms of the size of game then I’d say the FA Cup semi-final for Watford against Man Utd is the biggest game I’ve played.

Embed from Getty Images

Is there anything you WON’T miss once you stop playing? As mentioned earlier I won’t miss the pain I associate with it and I’m also looking forward to taking a holiday in any other month than June!

What do you see as the difference in managerial styles between Uwe and Mark Warburton? A lot of it comes down to emotional intelligence. Both have plenty of strengths however I think Mark is calmer and doesn’t allow events on or off the pitch to distract from the bigger picture.

He’s put a process in place, he’s following it and building something special. Uwe was excellent in terms of his attention to detail and was incredibly passionate, this most of the time was a good thing but sometimes his passion was misguided which would often alienate him.

After the defeat at Stevenage last season, Uwe ‘had a chat’ with the team after the game in which he subsequently told Billy Reeves, ”At times you think things are clear, 100 percent clear to the players and maybe, in truth, its not always like that.” What did he say and do you think that was the catalyst for the subsequent success that campaign? In hindsight it was an important talk. A lot of ‘home truths’ were said by all the players that day and we knew it was a pivotal point of the season. Uwe got a lot off his chest and likewise many of us got a lot off our chests, it was certainly a heated debate! At that point in time we were heading for mid table mediocrity however I have no doubt that talk helped spark the run we then had.

Uwe gives a very honest interview to Billy - the rest is history

Uwe gives a very honest interview to Billy – the rest is history

You got back into the team last season following David Button’s red card at Bradford City. Despite what I thought were a good run of results, he quickly reclaimed his place. How did that affect you? Yeah, we won 3 of the 4 games I played and there was one point after the Bristol City game where I was aware that the gap between us was very close. I thought I’d keep my place after that game but it wasn’t to be. David grew after that experience I believe and never really gave me a look in thereafter.

How good was it ‘celebrating like we’d won the FA Cup’ after the win at Leyton Orient? The buzz in the changing room after that game must have been incredible? It was, I remember never have been so nervous on the bench for a game! Especially when we went down to 10 men but we were excellent.

And yeah, the feeling in the changing room afterwards was a special one. We knew the job was far from done but that was a huge step towards our goal.

Richard, you are the manager. If you could pick a team out of all those players who have played alongside you since you joined Brentford in the summer of 2010, who would be in the starting XI? In terms of quality it would undoubtedly by the current team. Something else I’m thankful for is that I have formed many strong friendships during my time here, in particular with Kev O’Connor, David Hunt and Simon Moore.

As with any working environment it’s the people who make it special and I feel really fortunate to have worked with so many great people. I’ve also had some really understanding staff too which has certainly helped me prolong my career, these people include Simon Royce, Neil Greig and Richard Clarke in particular.

Given the unique nature of the goalkeeper’s shirt relative to the rest of the team, do you have any input into the club’s choice of design spec? Ha, no unfortunately not.

And what did you think when you saw this season’s choice? Erm…….

And finally, when things do come to an end (playing wise) this season, will there be a testimonial game? I can’t imagine there’ll be anything like that. To be honest I’m aware that hundreds of footballers finish their football career each season and I’m no different. I’ve just decided to make a definite decision in advance.

However I do want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Brentford FC for such fantastic support after my shaky start! It’s been an awesome journey. To have received the amount of kind messages and tweets that I have over the passed few days has touched me and I’m so appreciative for that.

Embed from Getty Images


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: