Former Luton, Birmingham and Hearts midfielder Lee forced to retire at the age of 31

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Former Luton, Birmingham and Hearts midfielder forced to retire at the age of 31

Former Luton Town midfielder Olly Lee has had to announce his retirement from playing at the age of just 31.

The ex-Hatter had been with League Two Gillingham, playing 10 times this season, but not since a 2-1 defeat at Sutton United in December.

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However, he has now made the decision to hang up his boots, and explaining why on the Gills official website, wrote: “I can’t believe I am actually writing this, but having been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis and Raynaud's condition over a year ago, I am now having to face the fact I can no longer continue my professional football career.

"I can no longer perform to the levels I know I am capable of, my body no longer allows it.

"This has been an extremely painful journey both mentally and physically.

“I have tried many medications over the last year, and many comebacks, but to no avail.

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"I am thankful for the moments I have been fortunate enough to experience, and can now finally look back on my career with pride at what I did manage to achieve.

Olly Lee hugs brother Elliot Lee during their time with the HattersOlly Lee hugs brother Elliot Lee during their time with the Hatters
Olly Lee hugs brother Elliot Lee during their time with the Hatters

"I want to say a special thank you to my wife, Beth, for following me wherever football took us and never questioning it for a second, without your support I couldn’t have done any of it.

"To my kids, I wish you could have seen daddy play more but I won’t hesitate to get the clips out and I hope I will make you proud in the future.

"And to my family for guiding me and helping me in both the highs and the lows, I am forever grateful for you all.

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"I am thankful for all the support from the fans at the clubs I was lucky enough to represent, particularly Luton and Hearts, two clubs that are now extremely close to my heart and I will always follow.

"A big thank you must go to Gillingham fans for always being great with me during my time at the club and particularly manager Neil Harris and all staff behind the scenes for being so supportive during such a difficult period for myself.

"There are still tough days ahead but I am very lucky to have found my passion in coaching, and helping people which I am excited to dive into now.

"Although playing at the level is no longer part of my journey, it is now the fuel that drives me to help the next generation of players on their journey."

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Lee came through the ranks at West Ham United, before having loan spells at Dagenham & Redbridge, Gillingham, Barnet and Birmingham, heading to St Andrew’s permanently in 2013.

Another move to Plymouth followed, before Lee was signed by ex-Luton boss John Still in August 2015.

It was the start of a terrific stage of his career, as the midfielder went on to play 123 games for the Hatters, scoring 11 times, including the now infamous goal from a different postcode, when netting from inside his own half against Cambridge United.

Lee also found the net in the 1-1 draw at Carlisle United, as Luton won promotion to League One, a season where he played alongside brother Elliot at Kenilworth Road, before he moved on in the summer of 2018 to head north of the border and sign for Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

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He had three years at Tynecastle, although was loaned to Gillingham twice in that time, before moving to Priestfield permanently in June 2021.

Lee made over 350 appearances in total during his 13-year career, as a statement from the Gills said: “Everyone at Gillingham Football Club is devastated for Olly to have to retire.

"We would like to thank him for his services, and we wish him all the very best for the future.