Former Ipswich Town goalkeeper swapped catching balls to criminals

Former Ipswich Town goalkeeper Lee Bracey

Pc Lee Bracey, who previously played for Ipswich Town, is now a police office in Manchester - Credit: Greater Manchester Police

Former Ipswich Town keeper Lee Bracey has opened up about swapping his goalie gloves for handcuffs when he became a police officer. 

Bracey was at Portman Road from 1996 to 1999 under George Burley but failed to make a first-team appearance for the Blues at a time when Richard Wright had nailed down the number one spot. 

The 53-year-old began his career between the sticks at West Ham United and also starred for Swansea City, Halifax Town, Bury and Hull City during his professional days. 

After leaving professional football in 2001, the father-of-two joined the police two years later. 

Richard Wright's bumper new deal saw George Burley call Terry Hunt with concerns Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Town goalkeeper Richard Wright was number one at Portman Road during Lee Bracey's time - Credit: Archant

"I played football in school and then West Ham asked me to go to training before they took me on full-time," Pc Bracey said. 

"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.

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"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."

His goalkeeping highlights include a man-of-the-match display against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round in 1990 when his clean sheet earned Swansea a replay at Anfield, and playing in front of 55,000 people in the Olympic Stadium in Athens as part of the Swans' European Cup Winners Cup campaign. 

"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," he said. 

Ipswich Town's manager George Burley with the trophy for Carling Manager Of The Year at the Royal M

Lee Bracey played under George Burley at Portman Road - Credit: PA

Pc Bracey now works for Greater Manchester Police in Middleton as a neighbourhood officer.

"I joined the police to stop bad people doing bad things to good people and I knew every day would be different," he added.

"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.

"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."

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