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History

One Hit Wonder – Lee Bamber

5 June 2015

You’d have to accumulate a fair few air miles to find our next One Hit Wonder who switched the northern hemisphere for the south.

After a spell at Preston North End and two years as an Academy coach at Manchester United, Lee Bamber decided the time was right to up sticks and move to Australia.

Once he and his family settled down in Western Australia, Bamber enjoyed coaching roles with the likes of Perth Glory, before operating as the coach of Armadale Soccer Club, the football club of the town where he currently resides.

Bamber’s ‘Red Army’ currently compete in the Premier Division of the football West State League; just one tier behind Australia’s top flight A-League franchise division.

Turn the clocks, and the temperature, back a few degrees to the 1993/94 season and North End were competing in the Third Division, with Bamber often finding himself as an unused substitute for most of that campaign.

On one occasion however, the services of the shot-stopper were required on a Saturday afternoon as John Beck’s North End side travelled to Nottinghamshire to take on Mansfield in a league game.

Going into the final ten minutes, both sides were evenly matched with the score line at 2-2.

Tony Ellis had grabbed both of PNE’s goals that day before the club’s first choice ‘keeper Kelham O’Hanlon was sent off for a reckless challenge 40 yards from his goal, and the former Bamber Bridge player has a vivid memory of those final minutes.

“I was on the bench for the umpteenth time that day, but in those days John Beck used to have us all warming up throughout the game, and he never let us sit down,” explained Bamber.

“It got to 80 minutes and a couple of the lads on the bench thought ‘we’re not going to get on now so we’ll just sit down and chill out’.

“Just as I was resigned to sit the rest of the game on the bench, Kelham [O’Hanlon] raced out of his box and played sweeper-keeper and tackled the bloke just in front of our dug out!

“As soon as he made the tackle, I remember thinking ‘crikey, I’m on here’, and I remember Beckie turning round to me and saying ‘right, get yourself on’, before he was even sent off because everyone knew he’d gone.

“I had a couple of easy saves to make that game, but the biggest thing that stuck out for me that day was before the game.

“I had moulded studs on, and the gaffer went mad at me and told me to put some long studs on, and obviously whatever he says goes.

“I remember the first ball I had to come for I had to come racing to the edge of the box to get it, but I nearly stumbled because I had these long studs on, and I remember thinking how embarrassing it would have been if I’d have fallen over for my first touch in professional football.”

Bamber’s Factfile
Date of birth: 31/10/68
Place of birth: Preston, England
Position: Goalkeeper
Game for PNE: Mansfield Town 2 PNE 2, 25th September 1993
Other Clubs: Bamber Bridge, Great Harwood, Fulwood Amateurs

It was at North End were the now 46-year-old began his coaching career, starting out at the Centre of Excellence after a consistent groin injury cut short his playing career.

He spent ten years managing young PNE hopefuls before taking some time out of the game until he received the call from Manchester United asking him to become an Academy coach.

After two years at Old Trafford, Bamber decided the time was right for a fresh challenge and did what many other Brits have done over the years by moved down under.

Bamber is not alone in having the connection of Preston North End and Australia, with current Preston defender Bailey Wright hailing from the country along with midfielder Neil Kilkenny.

And Bamber recalls the time when he nearly brought the current Socceroo Wright back home just before he broke into the first team.

“When I was working with Perth Glory, Ian Ferguson was the manager, and I know he enquired about Bailey Wright at the time he was on the verge of getting into the first team,” he explained.

“I did make contact with him, and all the reports that came back were pretty good, but once he broke into the team there was never much of a chance of him coming back here at that moment in time.”

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