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Lee Roche made five appearances for Manchester United, with a Champions League outing against Deportivo La Coruna arguably his finest hour in the famous red shirt. After failing to make the grade at Old Trafford, however, his career panned out in unexpected fashion, leading him to work on a building site after an early retirement.
Roche was picked up by United as a teenager and his handful of games for the club came around the turn of the millennium. Along with his European test, the Bolton-born player started against Arsenal in the League Cup before moving on to pastures new in 2003.
Spells with Wrexham and Burnley preceded a move to non-league Droylsden in 2007, where Roche spent the final four years of his career before retiring in his early thirties. The former England Under-21 international subsequently had to find work on a building site to get by, starting his own cavity wall insulation business.
“When you sign for a club as big as Manchester United, you think you’re going to be playing football until you’re 35,” Roche told LFETV.
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“The way things have turned out I’ve had to work, I’ve been working here for nearly three years and it’s a bit of a change from playing football but you just have to get on with it.
“I can only speak from my experience where I’ve come out of the game and had to figure out what to do next. I did alright at school, I worked hard but never really had a plan of what I wanted to go into. I’ve found myself in this job just to get by before hopefully retraining to do coaching or something I enjoy more.”
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A far cry from his current predicament, Roche also recalled the surreal nature of mixing with United legends such as Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane, while he also relished the opportunity to sign an autograph for one Red Devils fan who had mistaken him for Nicky Butt.
The PFA supported Roche following his retirement from professional football, helping him to become a qualified plumber. The 42-year-old has talked up the importance of youngsters having a trade to fall back on in case their sporting career doesn’t go to plan.
“I have had a few fellow workers on the building sites asking me about United and how have I ended up here,” he told Planet Football. “It can get pretty tiresome so I don’t go shouting about that I played for United.
“I do think young players today should be made to train as something, so they know about the real world. Most of them probably don’t have a plan to fall back on if they don’t make it as a professional.”
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