Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWhere Did They Go? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Where Did They Go? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Where Did They Go?

We are currently at a time in football where our national game has never been so illustrious. Gone from the game are the characters that drew us to the game in the first place and replaced by – not all but many – prima donors.

And with money now spiralling out of control and footballers becoming richer by the day, you can understand footballers becoming increasingly detached from reality.

Nowadays, it’s easy for a player to finish training and go back to their mansion and indoor swimming pool, without a care in the world. Okay, random stereotype I know, but this is the life of many modern day premiership footballers.

Often footballers are accused of not really caring about the real issues of the world, this is something that could never be directed at former City player, Lee Crooks.

Crooks was born in 1978 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.  An England schoolboy regular, Crooks established himself in City’s academy as a central midfielder but made his name as a tough-tackling right full back.

He was given his debut in a two nil win at Port Vale in 1996 but this success was short-lived. By the 1998-99 season City had found themselves in the third tier of English football for the first time in their history. It was, though, the season when Crooks enjoyed his best spell at City; he played 73 times, scoring two goals.

However, as the 2001 season got underway Crooks found himself left out in the cold and was consequently sold to Barnsley. Despite torrid injury problems, and the fact he worked under three different managers, Crooks managed to play just 67 times for the Tykes in three seasons. He was released in 2004 but managed to earn a contract with Barnsley’s Yorkshire rivals, Bradford City.

He spent two seasons with The Bantams, scoring just one goal. But unable to hold down a regular first team place, Crooks heeded a call from Gudjon Thordarson – one of his managers at Barnsley – and went on loan to Notts County.

Thordarson, an obvious fan of Crooks, nicknamed him the beast for his tough-tackling and robust style.

It was a nickname which Crooks certainly didn’t dispute, claiming: “If there is a tackle to be won, I am in there. I do like a good tackle.”; ‘The Beast’ played 18 times at Meadow Lane, scoring one goal.

He returned to West Yorkshire but was not given a contract by Bradford. Similarly, like Thordarson, Steve Parkin became a fan of Crooks whilst he was the manager of Barnsley; as manager of Rochdale, Parkin gave Crooks a one year contract, where he played 44 times for Dale.

In 2008, whilst considering his options, Crooks decided to take some time away from football. He told the Rochdale club website: “I’m not signing for another club. I now have time to myself, to concentrate on the charity work in the summer and to weigh up my options for next year”.

The charity work he was referring to was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his best friend, Chris Grayston, where he raised £6500 for MacMillan Cancer Support. He claimed: “It is a charity that is really close to our hearts” – and it was, Crooks’ Father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and his Mother had recently recovered from Breast cancer.

Crooks returned to football playing local non-league football – but it was never the same. With 247 appearances that spanned over 14 years and his climb of Kilimanjaro, Lee Crooks undertook his most challenging battle of all: He joined the Military.

Crooks used the grounding of professional football to illustrate the similarities: “Both roles are about working as a team, being there for your team mates and moving forward as a team” He claimed but also accepted what would be required: “You have to be mentally and physically fit for both roles, but you train as a professional footballer for 90 minutes so the training is a lot more explosive, whereas being a gunner you have to be robust and have a lot more stamina as you are carrying heavy weight over longer distances and over longer days and nights.”

Recently Crooks graduated to The Royal Air Force where he is now a leading aircrafts man.

Next time you hear or read about a spoilt footballer – take your time to think about Lee Crooks, and realise that there are some players out there whose bottle can never be questioned.

The‘Beast’ will never, it seems, shirk a tackle in his life.

Dean Edward Jones

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