After 17 years and nearly 600 career appearances, it’s time for Lee Tomlin to end a career that has seen him travel from League Two, out of the League and into the Premier League.
At 33, injuries have taken their toll on the talismanic midfielder, and his body simply can’t handle the strain any longer.
“I came into pre-season at Doncaster and I loved it,” Tomlin told Sky Sports after announcing his retirement. “But the last two months of playing and daily training have taken their toll on my body, and it’s just a little too much for me, especially with the amount of painkillers I have to take to get by.
“Playing football is all I’ve ever known but trying to keep going is too much for me on my body. I wake up every morning in pain and try to sleep at night in pain.
“I don’t think anyone is really ready to retire. I wish it was a job that I could do for many more years. But you just have to accept it and accept it.
“I spoke to people close to me and spoke to the gaffer. It was a decision I had to make, but I made it for the right reasons.”
Tomlin started his League Two career at the age of 16 with Rushden & Diamonds, and he went on to play for them for four more seasons after they were relegated to the Conference (now the National League), before his performances impressive do not see him chosen. by Peterborough in League 1 in 2010.
This was followed by a move to Middlesbrough, then a move to Bournemouth and the Premier League in 2015.
He considers those years to be probably the best of his career.
“One of the highlights has definitely been promotion with Peterborough from League One to the Championship,” he said. “It was an incredible moment.
“Then at Middlesbrough, I know we lost in the play-off final at the end against Norwich, but this whole season has been amazing. I loved it there. The fans, the club, the whole atmosphere Every day has been awesome.
“But the best has to make my Premier League debut. Even I don’t think I dreamed big enough as a kid to think it could happen. I was just a young lad in a housing estate, and I don’t I don’t think it can happen to people like us, but the more stories you hear now and you see it can happen to anyone as long as you work hard.
“I was playing in Ligue 2 at 16, but even then I felt like you had to be built differently or come from a different place. I don’t know. I just didn’t think it would be possible.
“Maybe if I had believed in myself from an early age, I would have had the chance to stay a bit longer in the Premier League. Everyone always talks about my abilities. I think if I really believed that I was meant to be there and that I was worthy to be there, I would have it.”
Now is the time to look forward rather than backward for Tomlin, who will enjoy a few months of relaxation at home before moving on to the next phase of his life – with a future in management, the next dream to which he aspires.
“For the first few months, I just want to spend time with the family and be there for them as much as possible,” he says. “I want to make sure they’re all okay and happy.
“But then it’s going to be about doing my coaching badges and going from there. I’m on my final assessment on my B license. Then it’s on my A license and my Pro license. This n It’s not something I’m going to rush into, but I’m going to do more now that I have time to do it.
“I’ve had a lot of old school managers, and a few new managers, and you can pick up little things from all of them. That’s what I’d like to be.”
Tomlin has worked under many top bosses during his career but believes Aitor Karanka has been the most influential in his career.
“I worked with him at Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest,” he says. “I have always done well for him. He is very strict and everything he says is valid, but he knows how to manage his players and with his attacking players he wants to let them do what they do. left on a leash.
“When I first went to Middlesbrough I lost a stone and a half to him in a few months. It was the first time a manager had said to me ‘you have to do this or that’. Training was such his hard work and management of men helped me a lot. He knew how to treat me and talk to me, and that helped me a lot.”
And it was also Karanka who had the best performance of his career, when Middlesbrough went to Manchester City as a Championship side in 2015 and beat them 2-0 in the FA Cup.
Tomlin takes a last moment to reminisce.
“I remember talking to Dean Whitehead and Jonathan Woodgate afterwards, and they were saying you moved on to the Premier League after that,” he said. “But I didn’t even think of it like that.
“It was just the only performance that I felt, against the players that it was against as well, that was just amazing. I just felt in that game that I was flying and sliding past people.”
There have been few better than Tomlin to watch in full flight in the Football League over the past two decades. It’s a show that will be sorely missed now that it’s gone.