The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Matt Bad­cock

WHEN Lee Brad­bury was pa­trolling the streets of North­ern Ire­land, a pro­fes­sional foot­ball ca­reer must have seemed a long way away.

Born on the Isle of Wight, the striker wasn’t nur­tured in foot­ball academies like many oth­ers. In­stead, his route into the game was with the Army. A pro­lific scorer, he landed a trial with Portsmouth and didn’t look back.

Brad­bury scored goals for his boy­hood Pom­pey, Crys­tal Palace, Manch­ester City, Sh­effield Wed­nes­day, Southend United and Bournemouth be­fore mov­ing into the Cher­ries’ dug-out.

Now boss of Va­narama Con­fer­ence South club Ha­vant & Water­looville, the 39-year-old is forg­ing his way in man­age­ment.

Here, the man who has won pro­mo­tion from each tier of the Foot­ball League guides us through his jour­ney from Cowes Sports to a £3m player.


I was play­ing for the Army team in a pre-sea­son tour around Porstmouth and the Isle of Wight. My coach knew the Portsmouth manager Terry Fen­wick and we went to have a look around Frat­ton Park. He told Terry Fen­wick about me, at the time I’d been scor­ing a lot of goals, and he of­fered me the chance to go into pre-sea­son train­ing.

I didn’t re­ally know what pre­sea­son train­ing was – I just thought that’s what a nor­mal day of train­ing was like. I was 19 years old, re­ally fit from the Army, and I won all the run­ning.

They asked me back for the pre­sea­son to Scot­land. I came on as a sub, scored three goals and they of­fered me a con­tract.

It’s what I’d al­ways wanted to do. Grow­ing up on the Isle of Wight, there weren’t the academies there are now and it was hard to get spot­ted. I wrote to all 92 League clubs, had a cou­ple of tri­als around the coun­try, but picked up a few in­juries and couldn’t get the break. So I joined the Army. To come from the streets of North­ern Ire­land to play­ing foot­ball ev­ery day... I couldn’t be­lieve my luck.


I had about 25 man­agers so this one’s hard! My favourite was Terry Ven­ables. I was with him at Portsmouth and Crys­tal Palace. As an all-round manager/coach, he ticked the most boxes with me. I’d never re­ally been coached to a stan­dard like that. He made me un­der­stand my roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Tac­ti­cally, he’s re­ally good and he had a re­ally good way of putting it all across on the train­ing pitch.


It’s split be­tween Robert Prosi­necki at Portsmouth and Ge­orgi Kin­kladze at Manch­ester City. Both were un­playable on their day. Fan­tas­tic aware­ness, touch, vi­sion, could breeze past peo­ple – the full pack­age.

Robert was very laid back. He’d been used to play­ing in front of 80,000 in La Liga for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. To play in front of 20,000 was a dod­dle for him. He had the ball on a piece of string. He was great to watch.

Ge­orgi could go past three play­ers, turn around and beat them again. That’s the sort of player he was. They were both good lads, too.


I’m lucky enough to have been pro­moted out of ev­ery league. From the Cham­pi­onship with Portsmouth, League One with Southend and with Bournemouth from League Two to League One. But the first was Portsmouth in 2003. I hadn’t been in­volved that much be­cause I’d been com­ing back from an in­jury. I went out on loan to a cou­ple of clubs, one be­ing Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

We had a cou­ple of in­juries so I was called back. We then played Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and I scored to put us 1-0 up, which would have got us pro­moted, but we went and con­ceded two goals. We got up af­ter the fol­low­ing game. At the time we had play­ers like Yakubu, Teddy Sher­ing­ham, Paul Mer­son, Pa­trik Berger, Steve Stone – we had a re­ally good squad. It was a re­ally good op­por­tu­nity for me to play with play­ers like that.


War­ren Cum­mings. He’s quick-wit­ted, bright, takes the mickey all the time and is re­ally to the point. So much so it can be cringe­wor­thy at times! He’s al­ways play­ing jokes and great in the dress­ing room. That’s why I’m pleased to have him play­ing for me at Ha­vant & Water­looville. He knows when it’s time to have ban­ter, but he knows the game, is out­spo­ken and he’s a win­ner. That’s im­por­tant.


At Pom­pey we had a winger called Jimmy Carter and he was so funny. He was a very wealthy guy, not that you would have thought so. He had a Bent­ley but he’d travel down from Pot­ters Bar in a Peu­geot. This Peu­geot broke down a cou­ple of times on the mo­tor­way.

We had a night out in Bournemouth once so we’d all had a cou­ple of beers. Jimmy saw a Peu­geot and he started jump­ing up all over it. He was run­ning up the bon­net and over the roof, do­ing for­ward rolls on it be­cause he hated Peu­geots. He got ar­rested!


Play­ing for Eng­land U21s away to Italy was my proud­est mo­ment. It’s some­thing you al­ways dream of in the play­ground when you’re a kid pre­tend­ing to be Alan Shearer. It’s sur­real to look at your­self in a real Eng­land kit, rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try, singing the na­tional an­them. In the Army you rep­re­sent your coun­try, but play­ing for some­thing you love like that in sport was a real achieve­ment.


I had a com­plete knee re­con­struc­tion when I was at Portsmouth and that re­ally hit me hard. You start to doubt whether you’ll play again. I got back but I don’t think I was ever

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

Big­gest Achieve­ment:

U21s Play­ing for Eng­land Best team-mate: Robert Prosi­necki Fun­ni­est Player: War­ren Cum­mings Favourite Place: Frat­ton Park ON THE ATTACK: Lee Brad­bury in ac­tion for Bournemouth against Lu­ton in 2008

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