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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 14:48 GMT
The life and times of Jason Lee

By Jonathan Stevenson

At 24 years of age, Jason Lee was living the dream of every professional footballer.

Jason Lee during his Nottingham Forest days
Lee became a cult hero during his time with Nottingham Forest

The year was 1995, Lee was plying his trade with Nottingham Forest in the Premiership and the Uefa Cup and his dreadlocked hairstyle and ferocious commitment to the cause were making him a cult hero at the City Ground.

But when a poor run of form came along, Lee's world threatened to come crashing down around him.

Mercilessly mocked by comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel on the BBC programme Fantasy Football, Lee's occasionally off-target shooting and "pineapple" haircut became a national joke and his confidence took a battering.

Now, 12 years on and at his 13th professional club, Lee is making waves on the other side of the River Trent as he propels Notts County towards a League Two promotion push.

Lee talks BBC Sport through the tough times in his career and reveals why he believes he has an awful lot to be thankful for.

FANTASY FOOTBALL

I'd be a liar if I said it didn't affect me. It coincided with a lack of form, which any player can have, and it grew to the extent where it was affecting people around me.

I had a little bit of a stigma attached and it's hard to get rid of that, it's difficult to shake off a label like that.

Fantasy Football presenters David Baddiel (left) and Frank Skinner
Baddiel (left) and Skinner made jokes about Lee's hair and finishing

When it started I wasn't too bothered but then I got dropped by Forest boss Frank Clark and, yes, it was partly down to a loss of form but also maybe it became a little bit embarrassing for the club for people to have to deal with the situation.

That annoyed me because I wasn't being judged on my football alone and, let's face it, you don't get to play in the Premiership if you can't play.

Ok, so I had a haircut some people didn't like or thought was silly or whatever and I've got a sense of humour and I can laugh and joke but they were knocking my ability and they were messing with my career in the end.

It started to feel personal. I can take a joke but I've got family and friends who got defensive and it was hard for them to come to games to listen to it and I felt bad for them.

I've never met either Frank Skinner or David Baddiel but the good thing about football is you always get the chance to have the last word.

I went to Chelsea the season after it all happened with Forest, got some stick but scored our equaliser and I knew Baddiel was in the stands so that was a great day, I milked it for all it was worth!

COUNTY CALLING

There was a lot of upheaval in the summer, a lot of players left and there was a lot of rebuilding. I, for one, think this club should be doing better - and I'm not alone.

Notts County striker Jason Lee
Lee now plies his trade on the other side of the Trent with Notts County

The club has underachieved in recent years, there have been tough financial constraints on a lot of clubs and that hinders progress but that's part of the infrastructure of football right now.

Notts County has huge potential, we have a great stadium but we don't fill it, no team would in League Two. If we can get into a higher league everything is in place - this ground is a Championship one at least.

We know if we do well the fans will come back. We're not having a bad season, hopefully we can push on and have something to play for at the end of the campaign.

We think we're good enough to go up. We've played well against the better sides and there's nothing to be afraid of, we've just let ourselves down against some of the weaker teams.

THE GOALSCORING TOUCH

I've got 14 goals so far this season and, from a personal point of view, it's going very well.

I don't set goal targets, I just try to play between 30 and 40 games every season, which may get harder as you get older.

JASON LEE FACTFILE
Born: 9 May 1971, Forest Gate
Clubs: Charlton, Stockport (loan), Lincoln, Southend, Nottm Forest, Charlton (loan), Grimsby (loan), Watford, Chesterfield, Peterborough, Falkirk, Boston, Northampton, Notts County

Strikers can go through patches when they're scoring and patches when they're not and I'm long enough in the tooth not to get carried away, I know there will be a dry spell around the corner.

Maybe as you get older you get a bit cuter and know a little more about how the game is played. Maybe you learn to adapt to situations a little better.

I've got another year on my contract after this season so I'm not thinking of hanging up my boots just yet.

I want to play for as long as I can. If I can carry on not letting myself down and be of benefit to the club I'd like to carry on. I don't think you should put a date on it.

PASSING ON WORDS OF WISDOM

Some players are blessed with the talent of Ronaldinho and if I was Ronaldinho and I was only playing at Notts County I would say I'd underachieved. But I'm not.

I will be more than happy with my career when I retire. I've had 18 years in the game and when you start out you hope to have a long career - but it's getting harder.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Jonathan Stevenson

I'll be pleased because I haven't let myself down, I've always done the best I can and I think I've fulfilled all my goals.

You can work on technique and other stuff all day long and you try it in a game and it doesn't go for you but one thing you can do, and which I always say to younger players, is you can give 100%.

If you are having a bad day, the fans will still appreciate it if you're having a go and giving your all. There's no point moping around, footballers are in a privileged position so the least you can do is give 100%.

Some players can give the impression that they are not trying hard enough.

Body language can be important - if you show you are giving your all it's very hard to knock someone like that but if you don't come across like that you can leave yourself open.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRENT

I enjoyed playing for Forest, I really did. It was the best time of my career because I was young, I was scoring goals in the Premiership and I was playing in Europe too.

As a player you can't get much higher than that - apart from winning an international cap, I did all that I could do.

I would imagine that some Premiership players might take it for granted now that they will play in front of at least 30,000 people every week and I've seen both sides now having played at a lower level.

I loved the adulation from Forest fans, of course it's enjoyable when 30,000 people sing your name, so that would have to be the highlight of my career. I've had other great times but that was the best.

The people of Nottingham have always been very good to me and I came to live here when I joined Forest and I've stayed ever since.

The city has taken me in. I love it, my kids love it and we are very settled here, if we weren't I'd have gone back to London a long time ago.

I'm indebted to Nottingham and I've always wanted to give something back to the place. Whether I'm doing that by playing for County or I can do some coaching, I don't know.



SEE ALSO
Magpies snap up four new players
16 Jun 06 |  Notts County
Wycombe 0-0 Notts County
10 Feb 07 |  League Two


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