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Posted on 10 April 2002  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

The latest in our series placing the spotlight on those seeking to make the breakthrough at the Lane. Meet Academy striker Lee Barnard and read of his eventful, to say in the least, year so far.

TO PUT A slight tweak on you know who's famous phase - it's been a funny old game for Lee Barnard so far this year.

A recent exploit was scoring the goal that set our Academy under-18 side on the way to a 2-0 quarter-final triumph over Blackburn at the Lane, but the year did not begin with the happiest of rings to it.

Rings is perhaps the operative term as a combination of his mobile phone ringing and a door conspired to put paid to the first few weeks of the second half of the under-19 season for him.

Lee ended up in plaster after rushing to answer his mobile, leaving himself somewhat immobile and facing a race to get fit for the fourth round trip to Bolton in the Youth Cup.

"My phone was downstairs and it started ringing," recalled Lee. "I started running down and I slipped and cracked my little toe against the door at the bottom of the stairs and broke my toe.

"It was going into the joint as well and I was out for six weeks."

The 17-year-old won the race to be fit for the clash at the Reebok Stadium and made a substitute appearance in the 2-1 win and then faced the nervous wait for the next major milestone of his fledgling career to be confirmed a couple of weeks later.

The second-year Academy players knew that D-day was looming, the day when they discovered whether or not they were to be awarded professional contracts at the club.

Happily for Lee the outcome was positive and he now goes under the job title of 'Professional Footballer'. "I was very happy," he said with more than a hint of understatement, before revealing the sequence of events that day.

"They called us into the office one by one and let us know. It was very nerve-racking in the changing room waiting to be called in. I was second in so it wasn't too bad.

"We heard a little rumour when going to be so we all braced ourselves and it was on that day."

So how did he feel waiting for his footballing fate to be revealed?

"I don't know really, I was all over the place. I was a bit nervous, too nervous - it was horrible.

"First of all they told us the options they had - pro, third year trainee or let you go. They said they were happy and going to give me a pro. It was nice."

Lee will now join a clutch of his under-19 team mates in Colin Calderwood's reserve squad for next season, a level of football he has already experienced some success in.

Just over a week after being informed of his new status, Lee scored his first goal for the reserves - the winning strike in a single goal victory over Coventry at Highfield Road.

"First goal," he grinned. "I enjoyed that, it wasn't bad - left peg as well!" Slightly modest because it was a particularly neat volley, and Lee viewed it as a turning point in getting his season back on track.

"I started the season quite well, got on against Stevenage for the first team, then played for the reserves against Arsenal. I was having a good season until I broke my toe, which put me back for a little bit, but I'm slowly getting back into it now."

Just to show that footballer's too have to deal with life's pitfalls as well as highs, Lee's first attempt at his driving test was not a memorable one.

"You had to put that in didn't you? You had to..." he grimaced, reflecting that things don't always go your own way.

"Ups and downs, ups and downs."

In fact, Lee experienced both emotions on the same day. After falling foul of reverse parking, he was then handed the chance to perform up front for the reserves with one Sergei Rebrov at the home of his boyhood heroes.

"I failed it, but then I got to play up front with Rebrov against West Ham - so that made up for it a bit.

"I'm glad the game was on because it just took it off my mind. I wasn't too happy building up to the game, but once I got on the coach I didn't think about it."

To put a dollop more icing on his ever-sweetening cake, the following week Lee was invited to train with the first team group and, despite his nerves, managed to stick one past Sully in the end of game shooting competition.

"That was nice. I started down the bottom with the under-19s and Colin came down and said they needed a couple and it was great.

"It was unbelievable. So much quicker. You've got to be stronger, quicker, and more aware.

"I was up front with Rebrov. I did a couple of things and a couple went astray - I was a bit nervous actually. It's been good so far.

"I knocked one past Sully which was nice. Teddy put me under a bit of pressure, he said 'you have to score this to make up for your performance in the game!'"

The skipper is a player that Lee looks up to, but finds that people tend to compare his play with Alan Smith at Leeds (although without the suspensions), while he himself also admires Michael Owen.

"I look at people like Teddy at the club. I look at him and he's special, he's got a footballer's brain - unbelievable.

"A lot of people say I play like Alan Smith at Leeds. You look at Owen, he was so young in 1998 and it's made him, made him the player he is now. He's a different kind of player to me so I can't look at him as a role model, I haven't got his pace."

Lee is something of an old hand at the club now, having been associated since the age of ten. Growing proved to be one of his biggest obstacles to hurdle three years ago.

"I had a big growth spurt when I was 14 and had a terrible season because I was so uncoordinated, but since I've got used to my body I've got better and better.

"I love it here. That one season where I didn't play well at all - that was my low, but other than that it has been good.

"I've had to make sacrifices like not going out and that, but it doesn't really bother me - football comes first."

Football does indeed come first, except for one full day and one half day each week, as Lee explains.

"Every Tuesday and Thursday we have to go down to the ground and we get taught by tutors who come in. I'm doing leisure and recreation which is okay, there are quite a few in the group so we have a laugh. We've got exams in June.

"It's not too bad - I'd rather be playing though."

Lee joined the club full-time at the beginning of last season and admits that six full days took a bit of adapting to.

"At first you come home and you're knackered and just want to sleep. After a while your body gets used to it and it's good. We get worked hard, but it's good and I enjoy it.

"I did my work experience here so I knew what it was about. It's better than school, you wake up looking forward to coming in, unlike school!"

Despite what he has achieved in a short time so far, season 2002-03 is the one Lee views as crucial in his development.

"That's the one. I've got to impress and have to go for it as I've only got a year. I've got to show them what I can do and hopefully they will reward me with another contract.

"I'll hopefully be playing with the reserves and will try to keep on doing well."

By Richard Hubbard