Halifax born Tuck enjoying superstardom in football mad Malaysia

Lee Tuck in action for Terengganu v Perak at the Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia
Lee Tuck in action for Terengganu v Perak at the Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia

Little did Lee Tuck know when he borrowed some money from his dad to fly for a trial in Thailand that he was embarking on a journey propelling him to superstardom.

The Siddal-born footballer plays for Terengganu in the Malaysian Super League and is regarded as the league’s most popular foreign player.

Lee Tuck in action for Terengganu v Perak at the Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia

Lee Tuck in action for Terengganu v Perak at the Shah Alam Stadium in Malaysia

All of which is a far cry from his days working as a tiler in Halifax and being released by Halifax Town as a teenager.

“I had a trial when I was about 11 and was there until I was about 18 before I signed a one-year professional contract in 2006 under Chris Wilder.

“I was only on something like £50 a week, but I was over the moon. All I wanted to do was play football with Halifax.

“But they didn’t renew the contract and then I went to Bradford Park Avenue but I didn’t want to carry on playing for a couple of months because I was gutted leaving Halifax.

Soccer. Halifax Town U16s team pic.'Lee Tuck.

Soccer. Halifax Town U16s team pic.'Lee Tuck.

“I went to Farsley after that for two seasons, we got promotion to the Conference, which was great.

“Then I signed with Guiseley on a non-contract. I had a friend who was playing in Thailand, and I said to him I wanted to play full-time football again, so if he could get me a trial over there, I’d take it.

“I borrowed a bit of money off my dad for the flights and to stay in Thailand. I was only there for a week or two and they offered me a contract. And I’ve never looked back since.

“If I’d stayed in England, who knows, I could have been a tiler now. It’s funny how things turn out when you make a decision.

“I just saw it as a fantastic opportunity, and if things didn’t work out, I could always just have come back and do what I was doing before.

“I had nothing to lose, so for me it was a no-brainer to go and try it out.”

Tuck spent a year at Nakhon Pathom FC before three years at Bangkok FC.

His goalscoring exploits there earned him a move to Air Force Central.

“Then Nakhon Ratchasima bought me,” he says.

“They were in the league below, but we got promotion that season.

“I was there for two seasons, and then I went to Bangladesh to play for Dhaka Abahani.

“We won the league and we were undefeated that season, and we won their FA Cup

“Bangladesh was fantastic, a good experience. But it wasn’t really the lifestyle I wanted.

“Then I signed for a team in Malaysia and signed for Negeri Sembilan.

“They were a fantastic club. We reached the semi-final of the FA Cup in-front of 40,000 fans, and just missed out on winning the league.

“I was only there for one year, and from there I signed for my current club Terengganu, who are also in Malaysia.

“I’ve been there one year. We reached the Malaysian cup final, which was the best experience of my career really. There were 80,000 fans and the build-up was amazing.

“I’ve just signed a new two year contract with them.”

Not bad for a lad deemed surplus to requirements at The Shay.

“I believed in myself, but I just knew I needed to be training every single day, and I needed that opportunity to not be working as a tiler,” he said..

“I knew when I went to Thailand I was only going to go one way. I just didn’t know how far I was going to go.”

Tuck says football is the number one sport in Malaysia.

“It’s massive, they love football. They love watching the Premier League, but when it comes to watching Malaysian football they’re all mad.

“People know who you are in the city I live in. With the exposure of getting to the final, people who work in the airport or shops in the city will notice you.

“It’s nice. Everyone’s as interested in the Malaysian Super League as people in England are about the Premier League.”

So does he get stopped for autographs and selfies?

“Yeah I do, which feels strange because I’m just a normal lad from Halifax.”

Tuck returned to Malaysia on December 8, but will be back in England on December 23 for 10 days, before flying back overseas for the start of the season in February.

Tuck scored 14 goals last season in all competitions, including the 12-team league, as a central midfielder.

And he says he and wife Georgia, who are expecting their first child are happy to stay in Malaysia for now.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’m comfortable playing there for another two years.

“That’ll take me to 32. After that we’ll see what happens because we’re expecting our first baby so we don’t know how we’ll feel about coming home or staying abroad.

“But we’re both really happy there.”

And if an offer should come from a club back in England?

“I’d definitely consider it because I’ve always had in the back of my mind what it would be like to come back and play,” Tuck adds.

“I’m a totally different player now to what I was when I was a kid.

“It would be interesting to come back and see how I do.”