There was a time when, after sculpting hair putty into his fringe, Lee Hendrie would look out of his window and wrestle with his mind, trying to decide which sports car to drive to Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground. Now when Lee Hendrie looks out of his window he simply thinks, ‘thank god I’m still alive.’
As a school boy Lee Hendrie joined Aston Villa, a club he stayed with for 14 years. During his time there he scored 27 goals in 251 appearances, won the ‘young player of the year’ award and played in an F.A Cup final. At the age of 21 he also gained his one and onlyEnglandcap, after being picked ahead of a certain Frank Lampard. His debut for the national side caused Glenn Hoddle to say that Hendrie was, “absolutely magnificent.” All that remains of his prized England shirt is a fond memory. Last year it was stolen when his house was burgled, an apt symbol of the cruel direction that his life has taken since he left Aston Villa as a 30 year old.
In the five years since, the midfielder has sunk as low as his entire being could push. In just under a year Hendrie has twice tried to claim his own life. His second attempt, in the summer of 2011, ended with him on a life support machine after overdosing on pills. The reason for his sad desperation was financial difficulties and a failing football career, where he struggled to hold down a club. "That was the money, the football ... it ended up getting too much, where I thought to myself: 'I can't carry on here.' It was horrible."
At his peak Hendrie was earning £35,000 a week, but it was all squandered by a combination of flash living and bad market luck. There was no doubt that he enjoyed living the high life, owning a Ferrari 360 Spider, but he also tried to be wise with his money, investing in property. That apparent safety was blown away during the economic recession and, in January 2012, Hendrie was declared bankrupt by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs at High Court. His £1.6m home was taken away, as well as a property he had purchased for his mum.
Off the pitch Hendrie struggled to settle at a club, having flirted with 13 since he leftVilla Park. His public financial meltdown meant that he had become an easy target of abuse for fans standing pitch side. During a game for Kidderminster Harriers he reportedly jumped the advertising boards, mid game, to fight rival Telford fans that were taunting him. More recently he was heckled whilst turning out for in Villa ‘Old Stars’ game. During a silent patch a crowd member shouted ‘Do you wanna borrow £20? You’re skint.’ Villa legend, and Reserve team coach, Gordon Cowans quietened the person by replying, ‘Shut up or we’ll all walk off.’
Now Hendrie is being encouraged to visit clubs and warn youngsters of the perils of fame, in a bid for them to avoid the nasty plight that he has suffered. Hendrie currently plays for Conference Premier Club Tamworth and is relatively happy. In his last game he was clapped off the pitch by 61 travelling fans.