Thanks to Soccer World with stores in Brisbane’s north at Stafford and south at Mt Gravatt, we catch up with a player who scored one of the most important and goals in the his club’s history. Learn more about Redlands United’s Michael Lee in this edition of Off The Pitch.
QSN: How were you introduced to the game?
ML: It would have just been at school. Football is obviously the main sport back in the UK and I remember at school always kicking a ball around.
QSN: At what age did you begin playing football?
ML: It would have been when I was around six years old and my junior club was Rossendale in the Lancashire area.
QSN: Did your family have influence in your early days in the sport?
ML: My dad was always a big rugby fan so that’s why I went to football. He wanted to push me to rugby and I was like, I’m not doing what you want dad. I want to play football.
QSN: After your initial exposure to the game, how did things progress?
ML: I was playing in a school competition and I then had a stint with Blackburn Rovers in their junior set-up. Then Manchester United came along when I was around ten years old and I went into their academy system. I stayed at United for four years after which point I was released by the club.
When that happened, I went back to Blackburn Rovers for half a season. Then, unfortunately, I just kind of got disheartened in football after getting dropped from United. I went back to the North-West counties league and that was of a decent standard which was good enough to pay an income to someone of my age at that time.
QSN: How did you come to be in Australia?
ML: When I left the academies, I played in a tournament. That gave me the opportunity to Ajax FC (Holland) but that’s when I ended up coming to Australia instead. It was either stay in Holland or come to Australia. Obviously Australia won out and this is my fifth season over here.
I came straight to Redlands when I got here. It was half way through the season. Redlands were the only team that would give me a trial at the time. After half a training session, they signed me.
QSN: What have been standout moments in your footballing career, both in the team environment and as an individual?
ML: Obviously being part of the Manchester United setup as a junior was a highlight and being picked to play in tournaments abroad in Athens. I’ve also won Player of the Year at both Redlands and Olympic.
Team wise, I won the league with a team back in the UK but then the years I’ve been in Australia it’s when Redlands won the Brisbane Premier League championship in 2012.
Then beating Adelaide United in the FFA Cup now features heavily in those thoughts.
QSN: Tell us about that moment in the match against Adelaide United when the opportunity opened up for you.
ML: There was really nothing going through my head apart from don’t miss! Otherwise the boys would have given me so much stick. I just couldn’t believe that it fell for me. I was glad it obviously fell to myself and just took the opportunity.
QSN: What was the belief of the squad going in against the reigning A-League Champions?
ML: You can’t say to yourself that you’re guaranteed to win. We all knew that we’d give it our best shot and no one would leave anything in the tank and push as much as we can. We didn’t stop pushing and in the 94th minute it shows that you should just never give up on anything because you never know when you’ll get your chance.
QSN: Redlands have drawn Canberra Olympic in the round of 16. Have you ever been to Canberra and do you know what to expect from your next opponents?
ML: No, I’ve never been to Canberra. It’s too cold. That’s why I moved to Australia, for the warmth.
I don’t really know anything about Canberra Olympic at this stage. I’m sure Matt (Chandler – Redlands coach) and the staff at Redlands will have all the analysis and videos ready for the match.
QSN: In amongst all the Cup excitement, Redlands are still figuring in the race for a spot in the top four for a finals berth. You come up against Brisbane City who beat you in the league this year but you beat them in the FFA Cup. It’s a virtual semi-final before the semis given both club’s positions on the ladder.
ML: We know that Brisbane City will give us a big game this weekend and it’s a must-win. We need to focus on that first before any further Cup action.
We’re full of confidence at the minute. As a group it’s all good and the vibe is also good, especially after the Adelaide game. I think we’re ready. We know what we have to do and we’re just glad it’s in our own hands because you can’t rely on other teams dropping points especially in this league.
QSN: Do you have any longer-term aspirations?
ML: Anyone would like to go to a higher level but if that doesn’t happen, as long as I’m involved in football in perhaps coaching or refereeing. I’ll always be in football even if it’s as the waterboy.
I’m not coaching at the moment. I used to but there’s some personal commitments that’s taking up my time at the minute.
QSN: Is there a particular player that stands out that you’ve either played with or against?
ML: Going back to my junior days, the guys who I have played with who have made it are Danny Welbeck who is now at Arsenal. Also Matty James and Danny Drinkwater are part of Leicester City that won the English Premier League last year.
QSN: Any embarrassing moments on the pitch?
ML: Just my hair at the minute. I need to get a haircut!
Thanks very much for joining us Michael and best wishes to yourself and your Redlands teammates for the next step in the FFA Cup and that quest to make this year’s NPL finals.
To claim a NPL semis spot for the second year in a row, Redlands will need to get over the top of Brisbane City in a virtual playoff for a top four finish. That vital match kicks off at Corporate Travel Management Stadium on Saturday evening at 6:30pm.