Striker Lee joined the club from Oxford United in December 1991. He played over 100 games for the club, also enjoying a loan spell at Southend, before joining Reading in 1995.
Now working in education as well as coaching, Lee spoke to Watford Legends in 2010.
How did your move to Watford come about?
I was at Oxford United at the time. Steve Perryman was there towards the end of his career and he had taken me to Brentford on loan when he was the manager there and after that he kept an eye on me. Oxford were a bit strapped for cash at the time and they had to sell a player to survive – I was that player. Steve offered the money they were looking for and it went from there really.
Did you have any doubts about coming to Watford? And did you have any other clubs in for you?
No as it was all done so quickly. The club announced that they needed to sell and Watford agreed the deal with Oxford that very same day so it happened really quickly. Watford were the first club to come in and offer the money. I had a lot of time for Steve Perryman as he was the man who gave me my first chance at league football so I had no hesitation in going. It was a good move for me and it was also good business for Oxford as it helped them survive.
You joined the club at a difficult time, when the club was still in a transitional period from the Graham Taylor era. How did you find the club to be when you arrived?
I enjoyed my time there, I really did. There were other players in the team that were about my age such as Jason Drysdale, Barry Ashby, and Jason Soloman was on the fringes. I had played against them a lot at reserve level. But it was always going to be difficult for whoever followed Graham Taylor after all that success that he had enjoyed. I thought we done pretty well with what we had though in all honesty. We were playing in what is the equivalent of the Championship now so we were at a good level and although we weren’t world beaters, we knew that on our day we could beat anyone. We added to the squad well with the likes of Paul Furlong. Andy Hessenthaler was already there when I arrived and he had come in from non-league and was a great signing for the club, he was a very fit lad. All round it was a mixture of youth with experience which I think is a good blend.
How did you find Steve Perryman as a manager?
I thought he was really good, I enjoyed playing for him. He had a big job on and was still trying to move a few players out of the club that had been signed by previous management whilst trying to build his own team that was good enough to make an impact. As a coach he was very switched on and when I look back at some of the things we done he was actually a bit ahead of the game in a lot of aspects. It could be said that maybe some of the stuff was too much for some of our players. You could tell from his work what a good player he had been. I saw him play towards the end of his career and he was a very good player.
You racked up over 100 games for the club and mainly as a striker; do you have any preferred strike partners?
I was signed when Luther was still about so I got to play up front with him for a while and that was definitely a good experience. He was coming towards the end of what had been a great career. He was the sort of player you could learn a lot from. Paul Furlong was another that I enjoyed playing with once he arrived at the club. A lot of the time I was being asked to drop into midfield which didn’t bother me as I started my career there, but it did mean I was in and out of the front line at times.
I think it was about two and a half years I was at the club and all of it was a great experience for me. It was a move that worked out for me, I think the only thing I would like to have done differently would have been to have scored more goals. I wasn’t a prolific goal scorer but I never was anywhere in my career as I was more of a team player. I think probably the biggest criticism I have of myself is that I wasn’t selfish enough at times.
There was a period of a year or so when you were at Watford and your brother was on the books with them lot up the M1. Is it safe to assume you didn’t talk to your brother for that year?!
Ha, yes he was on the fringes there! I didn’t realise until I got to Watford that the rivalry carried the intensity that it does. I knew they were rivals but I didn’t realise the levels of hatred and to be honest I didn’t realise it was that bad. Later on in my career I signed for them myself for a month and I wish I hadn’t.
Did they give you much stick when you signed for them?
Yes I got plenty of flak and it didn’t help when I gave a penalty away in an F.A Cup game. A ball came in that we were defending and for some reason my arm went up and I handled it. I wasn’t expecting to play that game at all but ended up doing 90 minutes. I should have been off after an hour as my legs had gone with the tiredness and fatigue, but I stayed on and ended up giving a penalty away. I remember it was against QPR and it took the score to 3-3 so they got the replay, and we lost the replay 2-1 at Loftus Road and that turned out to be my last game for L***n as I needed to get closer to home so I signed for York. But overall it’s fair to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience!
I play in the Watford supporter’s team with a lad called Rob Sterry. He remembers that as a kid he wrote to you and invited you round his house for dinner one night and you took up his offer and went for din dins. Do you remember it?
Ha ha, yes I do. I’m getting on a bit now so I can’t remember it exactly but I think it might have been for his birthday. You have stirred a memory for me there! It wasn’t often I got an invite like that so I thought I would take up the offer. I enjoyed my time at Watford so stuff like that was no problem. Tell him I said hello!
Are there any goals you scored whilst in a Watford shirt that stand out for you?
I remember scoring a brace against Bristol Rovers when I probably should have had a hat trick but I hit the post. Cambridge away is another I remember as it went in the top corner from outside the box. Probably those goals are the ones I remember. I got a few but I was never a Paul Furlong type player, he was stronger on the ball and got on it in the box a lot of the time.
When the time came for you to leave the Vic and move on to Reading, what prompted that decision?
A change of management, to put it simply! Glenn Roeder came in and it was nothing against Glenn whatsoever but he had an honest chat. I just asked for a chance, which I think is fair. Ken Charlery came in and was playing with Furlong but he wasn’t scoring any goals though his play was ok, but off the back of that I felt I deserved a chance. I got my chance when we played away at Tottenham in the cup and someone got injured, it might have been Darren Bazeley, and I came on and scored twice. He couldn’t leave me out after that and I went on a bit of a run and got something like nine in fifteen games. I then got dropped to the bench but didn’t end up sitting on the bench. It didn’t end great. I think it was Boxing Day when Neil Shipperley came in and he told me he was dropping me to the bench and I told him that was that and that I wouldn’t play for him again. To be fair to Glenn though I wasn’t his player and he wanted to bring his own players in, as any manager would. Reading came in and offered the same money that Watford had paid for me and so it was a good deal all round.
So did you sit on the bench for that last game, when Shipperley came in?
No as I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was fully expecting to play and so when I found out I was only on the bench I just didn’t feel right. I was disappointed as I was given my chance and I was taking it. I was on top form and I always gave 100% in every game I played. I decided enough was enough but Glenn was good about it and said that if they got a fee then I could move on so it was all done without animosity. I actually remember playing against Watford at Elm Park not long afterwards and we battered them, beat them 4-0 and I done everything but score. I had a chat with Glenn again after that game and explained that I was fully aware that football is all about opinions and that some managers rate a player that another manager wont and I have no problem with that.
I was at that game at Elm Park, stood on a terrace getting soaked and watching us getting spanked 4-1 – so thanks for that!
Ha ha sorry about that! That’s football though isn’t it? I must say though that I really enjoyed my time at Watford and haven’t got a bad word to say about the place.
Are you still in touch with any players from your Watford days?
I spoke with Barry Ashby about a year ago. I was quite good mates with Andy Hessenthaler but we lost contact a while ago unfortunately, and the same with Nigel Gibbs as well. So I was in contact with a few of them after I left but nobody anymore, but I think that is just the way things go sometimes isn’t it?
What is the day job now?
I teach PE in primary schools. I don’t work at just one school, I work for a company and then get put into various different schools so the teachers can cover their PTA time. I’ve been doing it for four or five years now.
Are you still involved in football at all? I did hear you were coaching at Huddersfield for a while.
I was coaching at Huddersfield up until about 18 months ago; I had spent three years there working with the academy. Nowadays I am assistant manager at FC Halifax who are in the Blue Square North. I’ve been there for just over a year now and its good fun.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Anything but Garage|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Match of the Day|
|One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest|
|Never happier than when|
|I'm not with my family!|
|Desert Island Woman|
|Kelly Le Brock|