Lee Tuck has played football abroad for a long time. So much so that he almost surprises himself when he thinks back to when it all started.
“I didn’t think I would ever be playing abroad for nine years. It’s crazy how fast time goes. It just feels like yesterday the first time I touched down in Thailand.”
Now 29, Tuck is reminiscing about his first move abroad when he joined Nakhon Pathom United who at the time played in the second tier of Thai football.
Fast forward to the current day and the Yorkshireman hasn’t played football in his homeland since. He’s played in Thailand against Robbie Fowler, in Bangladesh and now plies his trade in Malaysia for top flight side Terengganu.
It total he has played for nine different clubs since leaving English non-league side Farsley Celtic in 2009.
“I definitely have found it easier the more I’ve moved clubs, homes and cities,” says Tuck. “You just get use to it over the years. I think progressing and growing is key for me so each move felt like the right one and moment in time.”
This season, his first in the Malaysian top flight, has seen he score six goals in fifteen games and the striker has been firing home the goals ever since he flew to Asia. His three-season spell with Bangkok yielded fifty goals and his brief spell in Bangladesh was as equally fruitful.
The 29-year-old says that his family’s support throughout his career has been key to his impressive performances on the pitch.
“My parents are big followers of me playing football so they come out every year to see me and I live here with my wife, who is also from Halifax.
“She has been on the long journey with me. She’s my rock and follows me through thick and thin. I very lucky to have a family that supports my career path.”
His impressive performances have also led to interest from both the Bangladesh and Malaysia national teams who look to adopt Tuck as one of their own but he says nothing official is currently on the table when it comes to international football.
As well as doing the business on the pitch, the striker’s life off it is vastly different from what might have been had he chose to stay in England and not accept his friend’s invitation to join him abroad all those years ago.
“Hands down the lifestyle is better in Asia,” he says. “You get beaches, mixed cultures, foods, tropical weather, cheap lifestyle and you’re exploring the world.”
Just a quick check of his Instagram account which has amassed nearly 28,000 followers, shows you everything you need to know about the amazing lifestyle that awaits foreigners in Asian football.
Having played abroad for so long the thought of returning home to play has always been in the striker’s mind but it is something he says is not a priority right now.
“I would love to play back home and test myself to see what level I can play but it would have to be worth my while because I’ve built a good career out here in Asia and to throw that away and play a low professional level in England at my age would be pointless in my eyes.
“Maybe when I’m coming to the end of my career in Asia and want to live back in England I’ll give it a go.
“I miss changing room banter and the mentality of the football in England. Us Brits have a hunger to win with a fighting spirit. ”
Tuck is showing no signs of slowing down and is a crucial part of his Terengganu side but despite that, he is already planning what to do when the time comes for him to finally hang up his well-travelled boots.
“I think this is always a question in every footballer’s mind,” he says. “Ideally coaching would be something I would enjoy but I believe you’ve got to have a passion for whatever you do and I can’t see me getting up early on Saturday mornings to coach instead of spending time with family.
“I’ve been a building a property portfolio for six years now so the plan is to become a full-time property investor after my football career ends.”
The Halifax-born striker’s move to Asia certainly seems justified nearly a decade on he says there are plenty of reasons for more Englishmen to join him on his adventure.
“Salaries out here can surprisingly compare to League 1 and 2 in England.
“A number of players in the UK don’t know what’s out there and are stuck in the bubble of English football being the best level in the world.
“Well it is if you’re playing in the Premier League or Championship but you can play a decent level, save money for your future and live an amazing lifestyle at the same time out here.”
Tuck’s team currently sit in sixth place in the twelve-team Malaysian Super League and as they pass the halfway point of the season, the team can still realistically compete for the title. The English striker’s goals will be crucial as the curtain comes down on yet another season abroad.