An Early Evening With Alan Lee, I've kept an eye on Alan's career since he left us in August 2003, catching him a half a dozen times when he's been up north with Ipswich and Palace.
He's now with Huddersfield Town, a club less than 15 miles from our house and since his move, he's invited me to watch him at the Galpharm Stadium a few times. Alan signed for League One Huddersfield last August after playing (and scoring) in Palace's first two games of the season, so his move was a bit of a surprise. He found goals hard to come by at his latest club having scored none at the time of the interview!
We saw him first in Town's home game with Exeter back in November 2010 in which he made a second half appearance in a 1-0 home defeat and though he came and saw us both afterwards, by his own admission he's not a good loser and he was in no mood for an interview that day. Eventually we met up at his lovely house close to Huddersfield town centre, where over a cup of tea, I fired some questions at him and this is roughly how it went:
AL: I didn't know much about the Rotherham, or the move. Moves seem to happen quickly, you're on the training ground and then the manager tells you where you're going. I didn't even know I was available on loan! Stan Ternant was the Burnley manager and I didn't think I was in his plans so I was happy to go. I went with an open mind, it was a chance to play games. You don't know if they'll like you or you'll like them. I settled in straight away and was pleased to move permanently. One of the first congratulation calls I got after promotion was from Stan Ternant.
HV: At Rotherham, you seemed to be targeted by referees. Was it people's perceptions of Rotherham being 'physical', or has your game changed?
AL: Well, We were a tough side! Teams hated us getting corners and those throw-ins that Scotty or Shaun Barker would hurl in. I'm still targeted by referees, defenders get away with murder.
HV: What did Stuart Pearce say when you stood on him in the Man City game?
AL: He stood on me! I really enjoyed that game. Richard Dunne told me after that he had never seen Pearce so rattled before. Dermot Gallagher was the ref that day. He sent me off at Millwall the previous season for nothing. He was shown photos of the challenge he sent me off for and later apologised.
HV: You are back in Yorkshire, are you moving here permanently, or keeping your house in Essex?
AL: Well you're sitting in the kitchen of the house I've bought in Huddersfield, so the answer must be, it's permanent. You can buy a lot for your money in Huddersfield compared to where I was living. Catherine and I are getting married in the summer and we are looking to do this lovely old house up. I've spent half my life in England, my brother lives in London and my in-laws to be are in Essex. We've no plans to live in Ireland.
HV: Were you looking to leave Palace?
AL: No, I wasn't looking to leave, but once your club makes it clear they are prepared to sell you on, you may as well. It was a great dressing room at Palace and I'd had one of my best years in football. Although we lost some of our players, we had some great characters, no one blamed anyone for the circumstances we were in, it made us pull together.
HV: You're 33 now, how many more years do you think you have left playing and what plans do you have for afterwards?
AL: I hope to play for as long as I can. I think I've been lucky, I've had no serious injuries and played over 400 games. I feel retirement is a long way off. I love training and the crac and miss it within days of season ending. It's not unusual to be in for light training on a Sunday at Huddersfield. I work a lot harder now than I did in my younger days. I also look after myself better, before I'd be out with team mates on a Saturday night, now I tend to stay in and have a meal. I've nothing definite planned for when I finish playing.
HV: How does staying up with Palace (and sending wendy down) compare with scoring the goal that promoted Rotherham to the Championship?
AL: Different., it was a great relief. It took so much out of me, whilst the rest of the Palace lads were dancing in the changing rooms, I sat there drained. There was a lot less of a build up for the Rotherham game. We weren't expecting to go up that day as we had to win and Reading had to lose at Colchester. It was a big surprise to find out that Reading had lost.
HV: How hairy was it at Elland Road when you scored the goal to ensure Dirty Leeds were relegated.
AL: Not that hairy, nothing like Hillsborough. When the crowd ran on at Leeds, they just ran past us. Someone said they weren't angry with us, but the board.
HV: What do you think Martin McIntosh meant when he said at a fans forum that all the pub landlords on Abbeydale Road wore black armbands for a week after you left Rotherham?
AL: I deny McIntosh's scurrilous remarks. I'm a wine bar man, not a pub man. So if he'd said wine bar managers…….
HV: Was it a great surprise when the Glory Hunter turned up at Palace to inform you that you were in a Rotherham 'greats' side?
AL; It was and it's a great honour.
HV: Would you have been looking for a move if Cardiff hadn't come in for you in 2003/ Had you become more ambitious than the board?
AL: To be honest, Yes. The club hadn't approached me about a new contract. I feel I had done a good job for Rotherham and the transfer brought a lot of money to the club. I think both sides were happy.
HV: What sort of reception did you get as a former Ipswich player going on loan to Norwich and how near were you to a permanent move?
AL: I knew it was a risk going to Norwich as I knew they wouldn't like an ex-Ipswich player joining them, but after two games I'd turned them round and I think they could see I'd done my best for them. I was desperate to sign for them and even offered to take a sizeable paycut, but the Palace fee was the stumbling block. I've no regrets as things got better for me with Palace.
HV: How did you find Colin (ie Neil Warnock) at Palace?
AL: He was absolutely brilliant. He was always up front with me and when I returned from Norwich, he treated me like everyone else. All the players loved playing for him. I'm delighted he's doing well at QPR.
HV: Do you think you might have another move left and if so could it be back to Rotherham?
AL: I have light heartedly said before that I would never rule it out, but as far as I am concerned, I'm a Huddersfield player and my aim is to do the best for them
HV: How did you find it playing for Ireland?
AL: It was a great honour to play football for Ireland, all my caps are at my parents' house in Ireland, but I can't say I felt I ever really fitted in.
HV: How did you end up in England/
AL: Well I attended Blackrock College near Dublin, which was a big Rugby school. Brian O'Driscoll the Ireland Rugby captain was at school with me. There was only one football team and that was the sixth form team.
I enjoy lots of sports and played football seriously for a junior team and made the school football team when I was only 15. I was approached by Ron Atkinson who asked if I would go to Aston Villa. I didn't think I was leaving home, more like taking a gap year before returning to school and I'm still here!
HV: Do you keep in touch with any of the old Rotherham team?
AL: I'm still in touch with John Mullen who's doing some work with youngsters back at Burnley, Warney, Richie Barker and Martin McIntosh.
HV: Of that Rotherham side, who would you want on your side in a fight? Who was the best player? The best drinker? Who was the dirtiest/hardest opponent?
AL: Guy Branston! I can't name a player, I'd say our team spirit was our biggest asset. Lots of players have said they used to hate playing Rotherham back then. Plenty of the lads would go out for a drink or two. I think lots of teams thought we were the hardest!
HV: Apart from the obvious (Brentford at home), which goals stand out from your time with Rotherham?
AL: The two late goals against Millwall and the left footer from outside the area at home to West Brom.
HV: How much did the ground/crowd/kicking to the Tivoli faour Rotherham?
AL: I personally loved the closeness of the pitch to the crowd and being able to run past them after I scored. I know teams didn't like going there, the pitch was good but they hated the dressing rooms.
HV: You had a great reception on your return to Millmoor with Cardiff, were you looking forward to playing at the Don Valley Stadium?
AL: I don't enjoy playing against former clubs, there's often too much going on around the game for me. I also hate grounds with running tracks. I did go to the game and saw some old faces included Ronnie, who looked in good form.
HV: Have you seen the Huddersfield Giants since your move, do you think you could have played rugby league?
AL: Not yet, it's out of season for them at the moment. Some would say I've got the frame for it!
HV: Rotherham or Cardiff?
AL: Rotherham. I still get a good reception when I go back to Cardiff. I started well, but I had to have a couple of operations, though fans can always tell if you're putting the work in.
HV: Millmoor or Don Valley?
AL: Millmoor, I found Don Valley depressing.
HV: Ipswich or Norwich?
AL: Very difficult. Similar sized clubs supported throughout their counties, both playing in a beautiful part of the world.
HV: Saw Doctors or Stereophonics? AL: Stereophonics.
HV:Taytos or Walkers AL. Taytos. Cheese and onion with a ham andwich
HV: Beer or whisky? AL: Neither, red wine.
HV: Lads trip to Amsterdam, or fishing in Galway? AL: Fishing in Galway.
HV: Cheryl Cole or Danni Minogue? AL: Danni
HV: And finally, have you still got the London Millers Player Of The Year Award?
AL: Yes it's in the house in Essex at the moment, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to keep it!
As luck was have it Alan's next game after our meeting was a trip to London to play Arsenal in the cup. Alan had a storming game and broke his Huddersfield duck when his power header equalised for Town. Uncannily, it was almost identical to the one he broke his championship duck with Rotherham at Birmingham.
He also collected another couple of goals in Huddersfield's JPT Northern final defeat to Carlisle shortly after.
Huddersfield ended the season just missing out on both promotion and via the play-offs when they lost their final with Peterborough.
Alan made a late substitute appearance in the game with Town already two goals down. This season Huddersfield find themselves close to the top again and have gone a staggering 42 league games without defeats.
Alan struggled to get a first team place at the start of the season, but is now well established in the side, collecting four league goals so far and an early season suspension for 5 yellow cards, He's a very popular player with the Huddersfield fans and a bit of a heart-throb with the ladies despite recently sporting an alice band in matches!