Keeper Lee tells how Everton heroics was ‘comfortably the best night of my life so far’ in new book

Richard Lee celebrates his penalty save against Everton
Richard Lee celebrates his penalty save against Everton
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GRADUATION: Part Three – Herald Sport brings you the last in a series of fascinating excerpts from the new book of Aylesbury-born professional goalkeeper Richard Lee, Graduation.

“This game comfortably goes down as the best night of my life although the day leading to it was somewhat manic.

Goalkeeping book Graduation by Richard Lee

Goalkeeping book Graduation by Richard Lee

I had ordered some gloves for the game from my sponsor ‘Sells’. The gloves hadn’t arrived and it was game day. I had a worn pair that maybe had one game left (at best) but nothing else. As a goalkeeper having confidence in your gloves is huge, at pro level playing a game with gloves that lack grip is unacceptable, they simply are the tools of our trade...

I arrived at the game to see a package sat on my place with two brand new pairs of Sells gloves! I didn’t have a pair earlier that day and now I had several pairs! And after all the efforts exerted I decide to wear the ones I already had, but at least I was sure.

So the game begins, and we are one down within five minutes. The ‘less than 10 per cent stat’ pops into my head again; in fact against Everton it’s probably closer to two per cent. This could be a long night, I reckon.

I was helpless to save the goal and credit where it’s due - it was a good finish into my top right hand corner. Focus, focus, focus, control what I can control. A few minutes later Yakubu slips through, I come off my line quickly to make a smothering save. I make several more contributions to keep it to one: a save mid-height to my right that was put behind, and a low save to my left. I feel good, at one with the game, my focus was pure.

With half-time approaching we secured an equaliser - a fantastic header from Gaz Alexander – and we’re back in this game.

The atmosphere heats up. Half-time, one each, so far so good.

Added to this we squander a chance to win it: Charlie McDonald sees his penalty saved. End of normal time, 1-1, what an achievement. Everton want this, their big guns are on (Extra-time passes without further score).

People always say to me: “penalties must be so nerve racking”. Honestly? Not at all. This is as big an opportunity I get - to be a hero for a night.

I had partaken in hypnotherapy the night before and quite curiously Dave had made a suggestion for saving a hypothetical Jermaine Beckford penalty. Why Beckford I am unsure, but this was in my mind as he approached.

The standard of penalties was high. I dived the correct way for the first two but both evaded me. I felt a moment of frustration when the third one went in. I didn’t just play the game of my life for it to be forgotten in a shoot-out ‘nearly’ story.

Thankfully our boys were showing great composure so the score was still level. Beckford stepped up. C’mon, this is the one I thought. He looked nervy. I could sense he had yet to win over the Everton faithful, this was no time for showing mercy though.

He stepped up and fired low to my left. I dived mid height. I flung my arm down and felt the ball thud against my wrist and out to safety. YES! I felt the roar from behind me – it’s amazing how much noise 8,000 people can make! Pure ecstasy, I felt the adrenaline course through my veins.”

> Graduation by Richard Lee is available via Amazon at AmazonUK