Lee Daniel Holmes (born 2 April 1987) is an English footballer who plays as a left winger for Exeter City on loan fromPreston North End. Holmes started his career with Derby County and became their youngest ever player and goalscorer, as well the youngest footballer to appear in the FA Cup. He has played for England under 17s and England under 19s, scoring in their 3–1 defeat to France in the 2005 European under 19 championships. He had one previous loan spell with Swindon Town, as well as spending time at Bradford City, Walsall and Oxford United. He was released by Derby County in 2008 after six years with the club to join Southampton.
Born in Mansfield on 2 April 1987, Lee Holmes started his career with Derby County appearing for the club’s under 18 side when he was aged only 14. Even before he made his senior debut, he hit the headlines when he scored after just 38 seconds for England under 16s in a Victory Shield game against Northern Ireland. England went on to win the 2002 shield with two more victories. Holmes made his debut for Derby on Boxing Day 2002 against Grimsby Town to break the club record for the youngest player aged just 15 years and 268 days. It was a record he held for almost nine years until Mason Bennett beat it by 169 days in October 2011. He made another two more appearances during the 2002–03 season, both within two weeks of his debut. The second game was against Brentford when he became the youngest player to play in the proper rounds of the FA Cup, a record since broken by Luke Freeman for Gillingham. In March 2003, he also helped England under 17s to qualify for the summer’s European under 17 championship in Portugal with a 2–0 win in the qualifying match against Scotland.
He became a regular in the Derby side during the first half of the 2003–04 season playing 19 of his 24 games that season between August and January In September 2003, his manager George Burley issued a “hands-off” warning to teams trying to sign Holmes as well as fellow teenager Tom Huddlestone. Still aged 16, Holmes scored his first Derby goal in a 3–1 defeat to Coventry City on 25 October 2003 to become the club’s youngest goalscorer. In November, Holmes was a target of Chelsea’s recruitment drive of young England footballers. He scored again later that month in a 3–1 win against Milton Keynes Dons.
Holmes played three games for Derby at the start of the 2004–05 season and also appeared for England under 19sscoring in a 1–1 draw with the Czech Republic. In December 2004, he made a loan move to Swindon Town in League One initially for one month. He made his Swindon debut two years to the day after his Derby debut as they defeated Peterborough United 2–0. Holmes’ loan deal was twice extended after he impressed during his first two months at Swindon. He scored his only Swindon goal during his final month in a 1–1 draw with Doncaster Rovers. Holmes played 15 league games for Swindon, winning the club’s young player of the season award, before returning to Derby County. He made one final appearance for Derby in the 2004–05 season before he played in the 2005 European under 19 championships in Northern Ireland, scoring in England’s 3–1 final defeat to France. It took his tally for the side to six.
Holmes spent the entire 2005–06 season with Derby County playing 21 games but without scoring. In January 2006, he signed a new contract at Derby keeping him with the club until the end of the 2007–08 season. The following month, he was named captain of England under 19s against Slovakia, which he marked with another goal in a 3–0 victory. Derby struggled in the Championship and finished 20th just eight points above the relegation places, avoiding the threat of relegation with a 1–1 draw atQueens Park Rangers. Holmes again moved on loan at the start of the 2006–07 signing for Bradford City with full back Nathan Doyle. Holmes made his debut for Bradford in their opening day 1–0 defeat to Nottingham Forest, going on to make 16 league appearances for the club and another three in cup competitions, although his final days at Bradford were hampered by an ankle injury. He spent a time on trial at Dutch side NAC Breda but stayed at Derby and never played a game during 2007.
In January 2008, Holmes signed on loan until the end of the 2007–08 season for League One side Walsall. He made his debut for Walsall, and his first game in more than 13 months in a 2–2 draw with his former side Swindon Town on 12 January 2008. He scored his first goal in a 2–1 defeat to Carlisle United on 2 February 2008. and followed it up with a goal in his next game when Walsall defeated Yeovil Town 2–0. Two weeks later he scored in each half to take his run to four goals in four games in a 3–0 victory over Swindon Town. Holmes played a total of 19 games for Walsall during his loan but was unable to add to his four early goals. He returned to Derby at the end of the season, but the club decided not to renew his contract, and he was one of four players to be released. He played 46 league games with Derby and 52 in total, scoring two goals, but had not played since 2006. On 6 June 2008, Holmes turned down Leeds United and Nottingham Forest to instead sign for Championship side Southampton as their first summer signing. He was attracted by the promising youth set up under new coach Jan Poortvliet, chairman Michael Wilde and the size of the club. Holmes made his debut for Southampton in the opening game of the 2008–09 season against Cardiff City. Holmes was substituted in the second half, replaced by Bradley Wright-Phillips, as Southampton lost 2–1. Holmes scored in his second game with Southampton, as they defeated League Two side Exeter City 3–1 in the first round of the League Cup. Holmes started Southampton’s opening seven games of the season, and scored a second goal, once again in the League Cup, but was injured in a 4–1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers in September. Holmes left Rangers’ ground on crutches after suffering medial ligament damage in his right knee. The injury forced him to spend six weeks in a leg brace, and kept him out of action for three months. Although it did not require surgery, Holmes also suffered some cartilage damage, which had to be treated by a minor operation.
Southampton struggled without Holmes, who returned to action in a 2–0 defeat to another team fighting against relegation Nottingham Forest on 20 December 2008. As a result of the club’s form Poortvliet resigned as manager and was replaced by his assistant Mark Wotte, in whose first game in charge, Holmes again went off injured. The injury was diagnosed as a recurrence of his previous injury and was expected to keep him out for another four weeks.
He was named on the bench for the first game of the 2009–10 Season against Millwall, but never featured. After being named on the bench for some cup games, he started against Millwall on 16 January.
On 1 October 2011, he came on as a substitute to score Southampton’s fourth goal against Watford. This was his first league goal for the club.
On 14 February 2012, Holmes signed a one-month loan deal at League Two side Oxford United, which made him available for their match against Dagenham and Redbridge at the Kassam Stadium. He set up both goals in a victory over rivals Swindon, and then scored twice in a 2–2 draw with Shrewsbury. On 14 March 2012, Holmes returned to his former club, Swindon Town, on loan for the remainder of the season.
On 19 May, it was announced that he was to be released by Southampton at the end of the season. On 28 May 2012, he agreed to join Preston North End with effect from 1 July. On 17 December 2013, Holmes extended his contract with Preston for a further twelve months, thus keeping him at the club until the summer of 2015. On 24 November 2014, Holmes signed a two-month loan deal to Portsmouth. On 16 March 2015, Holmes joined Exeter on loan until the end of the season.
|2004–2005||Swindon Town (loan)||15||(1)|
|2006||Bradford City (loan)||16||(0)|
|2012||Oxford United (loan)||7||(2)|
|2012||Swindon Town (loan)||10||(1)|
|2012–||Preston North End||60||(6)|
|2015–||Exeter City (loan)||7||(0)|