A former goalkeeper who once played in front of 55,000 people and toured the world but called full-time on it to become a neighbourhood police officer at GMP says he did it all to “help others”.
Police Constable Lee Bracey kicked off his career as an officer back in 2003 after a professional career between the sticks from 1985 to 2001 for West Ham, Swansea City, Halifax Town, Bury, Ipswich Town and Hull City.
The father-of-two’s previous career highlight was a man of the match display against Liverpool in the FA Cup Third Round of 1990 – an inspired display saw Lee deny the likes of John Barnes and Ian Rush to earn a clean sheet and a chance to play at Anfield in the replay. After this, he played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens in front of 55,000 people during his stint at Swansea City as part of the European Cup Winners Cup.
“That FA cup game was one of those games that keepers sometimes have from time to time when everything goes in their favour and they manage to stop everything,” said Lee.
The 53-year-old said: “I played football in school and then West Ham asked me to go to training before they took me on full-time. I’d always known I wanted to either be a police officer or a footballer and had even written to the Chief Constable of Kent Constabulary at the time to ask for work experience.
“I joined West Ham as an apprentice, then went on to play for Halifax Town, Bury, Ipswich Town and then Hull City, all until 2001.
“I got fed up of moving around in the end and that’s when I decided to join the police in 2003. I wanted a career and more importantly, I wanted to help people.”
Lee swapped his goalie gloves for handcuffs and now helps to keep people safe in Middleton in his role as a neighbourhood officer.
He added: “I joined the police to stop bad people doing bad things to good people and I knew every day would be different.
“Being a footballer meant that I had to have some confidence to speak to people and that’s something I had from having to play in front of huge crowds, speak to the media and more. Having the confidence to speak to people is so important in this job, along with the ability of sometimes having to take things on the chin.
“There’s such a variety in being a neighbourhood officer and the work that me and the team do can really have an impact on the community. Even working to arrest prolific burglar or shoplifter can make such a huge difference in the local area.”
He added: “There’s a huge team spirit in being a police officer, you’re part of a huge team. It’s a fantastic career where you help people every single day and it’s a job for life.”