Conor Tee’s first interview: From Leicester to South Shields (via Wembley!)
As the ticker tape rained down and a jubilant Leicester City celebrated their first FA Cup triumph, Conor Tee could not have felt prouder.
Just short of a year on from his departure from the club he represented from the age of 12 to 19, there were of course pangs of regret that he did not get the opportunity to play a part in the Foxes’ historic victory.
Cheering on his former team from the Wembley stands, though, was the next best thing for the ambitious 20-year-old. He was able to see his close friend and fellow Leicester academy graduate Luke Thomas play a key part in the 1-0 win over Chelsea, and witness his ex-club lift a trophy which had eluded them for so long.
As it did for so many who love the beautiful game, Leicester’s victory lifted Tee’s spirits and with 20,000 fans in attendance, set his pulse racing in anticipation of the return of supporters in the 2021-22 campaign.
That’s not the only reason for Tee to feel excited ahead of the new season. He is ready for a fresh start after joining South Shields following an impressive period training with the Mariners.
His arrival at 1st Cloud Arena was greeted with delight by Shields manager Graham Fenton – a former Leicester player himself – and it is his mentality as well as his quality which has drawn the most praise.
That is a by-product of Tee’s upbringing at Leicester, and after a spell at Brackley Town last season, he is now eager to prove himself at first-team level with the Mariners.
“I had a really good time at Leicester and the club really helped me to progress as a player and a person,” Tee said. “I had a very successful time there but eventually it came to an end and now I’m grateful for the opportunity South Shields have given me to prove myself.
“Being at Wembley on Saturday was an amazing experience and the feeling in the stadium was incredible with the fans being there.
“It changed the flow of the game and gave it a much higher tempo, which you’d probably expect anyway in a cup final but it made it a lot more exciting to watch.
“The last year has been very strange to play without fans in the stadiums but I can’t wait for next season and to have the chance to play in front of the South Shields supporters.”
Tee was Leicester’s Under-18s Player of the Year in 2018 and regularly trained with the first-team alongside the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Thomas, who has broken into the senior team this season.
His departure from the King Power Stadium in 2020 was greeted with surprise by many in the game and came at a difficult moment for any player, with the world plunged into a pandemic and little opportunities to earn contracts at new clubs.
Tee – who sees himself as a number 10 but can also play in wide areas – is delighted to have his future mapped out after putting pen to paper with South Shields.
He added: “To have my future settled with plenty of time to go until the season starts is a big boost for me, because the last year or so has been difficult.
“You’ve not known when your next game or even training session will be so I’ve had to do a lot myself, which has been mentally really tough.
“I’m so happy to have everything sorted now and really excited about the season ahead.
“I can’t wait to play in front of all the fans and show everyone what I can do.”
Shields as a club has already made a real impression on Tee, who made his mark in a behind-closed-doors friendly win at Billingham Town earlier this month.
He said: “I really enjoyed the period I trained with Shields and felt at home immediately.
“It’s such a welcoming group of lads and staff and the way I settled so quickly made it an easy decision to sign.
“I really feel I can enjoy my football and achieve good things here, and that is the key.
“It feels like a very family club with a tight-knit group of players. I got that feeling straightaway.
“I really want a good run of games and to get back to doing what I do best, which is scoring goals, creating goals and helping the team as much as I can.”
Tee has previously tasted international football and scored on his only appearance for the Republic of Ireland’s Under-18s in a match against Romania.
He may be just 20, but he has already packed plenty into his short career to date and his Leicester upbringing will undoubtedly stand him in good stead.
When asked the main aspects of his time with the Foxes he feels will assist him the most moving forward, Tee replied: “Being in a professional environment for so long really helped me and now I feel like I’m equipped to go into any environment with the right mindset.
“You have to have a positive mindset. I know what I need to do to improve and being in that environment gave me a really professional attitude and the desire to be the best player I can possibly be.”
While he is fiercely driven and in possession of an insatiable desire to win, there is not a hint of arrogance about Tee.
There is a clear confidence in his ability to make an impact with the Mariners and a similar level of belief in his new team-mates, but certainly no sense of entitlement.
His work ethic and attitude are two of his most enticing attributes, according to Fenton, and a huge factor in Shields’ desire to make him their first signing of the summer.
Tee can’t hide his excitement at the prospect of returning to the pitch and helping the Mariners in their pursuit of new goals in 2021-22.
“Our main ambition is to win the league and secure promotion,” he said. “Of course it’s going to be a long and difficult season, but we believe in ourselves and are really excited to go out and try to achieve that.
“Pre-season can’t come round quickly enough.”