From: Youth Team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Back
Past Profiles: November 2005, July 2004, February 2003
See also: www.richardleegk.com
Despite having been with the club for five years since making the step-up from the academy, making his debut in 2002, Richard Lee, who has forever been billed as “Watford’s Next Number One”, has never quite reached that potential. Built ‘like a goalkeeper’, standing at six foot and weighing twelve and a half stone, Lee is an imposing figure and a fantastic shot-stopper, lacking perhaps in only one area – a killer goal kick.
After several seasons of bench-warming and bad luck with injuries, Lee began the 2004/2005 season as first choice keeper after learning from Alec Chamberlain – whose turn it was to play deputy. After recovering from a knee-injury and broken arm, Lee ditched the unlucky number thirteen shirt in favour of number sixteen and went from strength to strength. He kept ten clean sheets in twenty-nine games and even though Watford had started to slip down the Championship table, Lee was relishing his chance in the first team and pulling out all the stops to impress.
Although Watford’s league form was wavering, they were going strong in the Carling Cup and after great performances against Premiership opposition Southampton and Portsmouth, Watford and Lee were facing European giants Liverpool in the semi-finals. Just as Lee’s luck looked to have turned around and he had the chance to really mark his time at Watford, his injury curse struck again. Twenty-eight minutes into Watford’s December Championship game with Coventry he went for a fifty-fifty ball with Stern John and James Chambers. Unfortunately for Lee it was his face which took the brunt of the challenge, breaking his cheekbone and sidelining him for months. He returned to the first team after coming back from the injury but his form was a subject of question and Watford slipped further and further down the table. With relegation a serious threat, Lee was relegated to the substitutes bench and Chamberlain was restored, picking up seven points in four games to ensure Watford’s safety.
With Chamberlain set to continue for a year, and Ben Foster in from Man Utd on loan, Richard Lee left to spend the 2005/2006 season on loan at Premiership Blackburn with the opportunity for them to buy him after the year was up. He became somewhat the forgotten man at Watford and despite never having made it anywhere near a Blackburn team-sheet he will have no doubt picked up valuable experience from a season training with Brad Friedel.
So we come to the 2006/2007 Premiership campaign for Watford. Blackburn decided not to take up their option on Lee and so their loss is our gain and pre-season friendlies have seen Lee back in yellow (so to speak!) sharing goalkeeping duties with youngster Scott Loach. After the return of Ben Foster on loan for the season, Lee's opportunities this season may be limited, but after impressive pre-season form he'll find himself as a more than able deputy to the Manchester United loanee....and should get at least two outings as Premiership rulings prevent Foster from facing his own club. It's by no means too late and perhaps Lee can go on to become the goalkeeper that his potential deserves.
Last updated: August 2006