|Full name||Rowan Lee Mills|
|Date of birth||10 July 1970|
|Place of birth||Mexborough, England|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|1991–1992||Stocksbridge Park Steels|
|1995||→ Derby County (loan)||1||(1)|
|2000||→ Manchester City (loan)||3||(0)|
|2001||→ Coventry City (loan)||8||(2)|
|2003||→ Stoke City (loan)||3||(1)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
In a career spanning fourteen years he made 293 appearances in the Football League, scoring 86 goals. He played for numerous clubs and was transferred for some big money moves; totalling around £2 million. Arguably his most successful period came at Port Vale and Bradford City in the late 1990s. He helped Vale to their highest post-war finish in the league, whilst he helped Bradford win promotion into the Premier League.
Born in Mexborough, Mills started his career with Stocksbridge Park Steels before being brought to the Football League with Wolverhampton Wanderers of the First Division in December 1992. The 1992–93 and 1993–94 seasons saw "Wolves" finish mid-table. In 1994–95 they pushed for promotion, but Mills had been loaned to Derby County in February 1993, scoring on his Derby debut, the deal was made permanently the following month for £400,000. He finished the season with seven goals in sixteen games for the "Rams", yet in July 1995 was let go to John Rudge's Port Vale for a £475,000 fee, plus Robin van der Laan.
His Vale debut came as a substitute on 13 August 1995, in a goalless draw with Derby at The Baseball Ground. At the end of the season Derby were promoted, but Vale were to finish in twelfth spot. The 1996–97 season saw the club's highest post-war finish – eighth place in the First Division. On 13 October 1996 he came off the bench in a Potteries derby game to score a last minute equaliser, denying Stoke City an away win and local bragging rights. He finished the season with fifteen goals and was handed the club's player of the year award. During the 1997–98 season Mills was the club's top scorer with 16 goals. However Vale were in terminal decline, narrowly avoiding relegation.
"Three years at Port Vale is enough for anybody."—By the time he signed with Bradford, Mills had had enough of the Potteries.
Mills became Bradford City's first £1 million player when Paul Jewell purchased him in preparation for the 1998–99 season. Mills made a large contribution to Bradford's promotion to the Premier League, becoming the club's top scorer with 24 goals. He also scored on his return to Vale Park, perhaps with a point to prove after a Vale programme article described him as "poor" and his touch as "frequently awful". The 1999–2000 season was a poor one for Mills, scoring just six goals he was troubled with injury and had a falling out with manager Paul Jewell. He spent March 2000 on loan with First Division Manchester City. His poor form left him labelled as a "forgotten man" when he scored twice in the 2000 UEFA Intertoto Cup against Lithuanian side FK Atlantas. New manager Chris Hutchings put Mills on a list of seven "underachievers", with a warning that a continuation of poor form would see those players released. Hutchings' reign would last only a further four months. However in that time Hutchings had sold Mills to Portsmouth for a club-record £1.25 million, to make way for Ashley Ward. Pompey later struggled to pay the fee and were put on a transfer embargo by the FA.
He scored five goals in 27 games during the 2000–01 season. He played just two games the following season before a one month loan to Coventry City in December 2001 soon turned into a £250,000 move at the end of the year. He aimed to fire the "Sky Blues" to the play-offs, though the season ended with Coventry occupying 11th spot. By some measure of irony he played at Fratton Park in a Portsmouth shirt, Graham Barber having deemed both Coventry strips were too similar to Pompey's home strip forced the side to borrow Portsmouth's orange away strip.
In July 2001 he broke his arm in a "freak" training ground incident, this came after recently recovering from a potentially career threatening knee injury. He came back later in the season with "a bang", Mills saying: "I've come in and done OK and let's hope that continues." He was soon battling with an ankle injury, choosing to take injections to avoid time on the sidelines. In February 2003, following a one month loan with Tony Pulis' Stoke City, where John Rudge was now Director of Football, he signed for the "Potters" on a permanent basis. The next month he was involved in a traffic collision on the M6 motorway and escaped with only minor injuries.
In July 2003 he signed with Telford United. Manager Mick Jones was clearly delighted with the capture, stating: "I don't want to put too much pressure on Lee but I am hopeful he might have the same kind of impact as Alan Shearer had when he moved from Blackburn to Newcastle". After eleven goals in thirty games, Mills tore his ankle ligaments during a training accident, keeping him out of action for three months.
Following the collapse of Telford United there was a race to Mills' signature, which was eventually won by Hereford United. Graham Turner having signed Mills, Mark Robinson and Jonathan Gould, looked to improve upon 2003–04's second place finish, which saw the "Bulls" agonizingly close to automatic promotion to the Football League. Nine league goals from Mills in the 2004–05 season could not help United catch runaway champions Barnet, for a second consecutive season they crashed out in the play-off semi-finals. Four of his goals had come in the first two months, despite starting just five matches. Mills was released after the semi-final defeat, as was fellow veteran Graham Hyde.
In May 2010 he was confirmed as new manager of Midland Football Alliance club Bridgnorth Town. However at the end of the 2010–11 season, Mills and his assistant Tony Dinning resigned from their posts at Bridgnorth Town, citing a wish to move on to a new challenge. After missing out on the vacant management position at Stafford Rangers, Mills was instead appointed as assistant manager at Bridgnorth's league rivals Ellesmere Rangers. He quit the club in January 2012, due to other commitments.
- Sourced from The English National Football Archive
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other[A]||Total|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||1993–94||First Division||14||1||1||1||1||0||1||1||17||3|
|Derby County||1994–95||First Division||16||7||0||0||0||0||0||0||16||7|
|Port Vale||1995–96||First Division||32||8||2||0||2||1||6||4||42||13|
|Bradford City||1998–99||First Division||44||24||2||1||4||0||0||0||50||25|
|Manchester City (loan)||1999–2000||First Division||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||0|
|Coventry City||2001–02||First Division||20||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||20||5|
|Stoke City||2002–03||First Division||11||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||11||2|
|Telford United||2003–04||Conference National||26||9||4||1||0||0||2||1||32||11|
|Hereford United||2004–05||Conference National||31||7||2||1||0||0||3||1||36||9|
- A. ^ The "Other" column constitutes appearances and goals in the Anglo-Italian Cup, FA Trophy, and UEFA Intertoto Cup.
- with Bradford City
- Kent, Jeff (1996). Port Vale Personalities. Witan Books. p. 200. ISBN 0-9529152-0-0.
- "Football: Stoke denied by Mills". The Independent. 14 October 1996. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- Shaw, Phil (2008). The Book of Football Quotations. Ebury Press. p. 181. ISBN 9780091923334.
- Shaw, Phil (14 April 1999). "Football: Bradford cause boosted by Mills". The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Mills: Bank on me". BBC Sport. 23 July 2000. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Mills makes his mark". BBC Sport. 9 July 2000. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Hutchings prepared to wield axe". BBC Sport. 10 July 2000. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "League lift Pompey transfer ban". BBC Sport. 11 July 2001. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- Tynan, Gordon (1 January 2002). "Coventry sign cut-price Mills". The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2009.
- "Mills eyes play-offs". BBC Sport. 28 January 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Sky Blues' red faces". BBC Sport. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Pompey suffer Mills blow". BBC Sport. 14 July 2001. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills back with a bang". BBC Sport. 20 September 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills gets the needle". BBC Sport. 28 November 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Stoke complete double signing". BBC Sport. 17 February 2003. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills injured in car crash". BBC Sport. 18 March 2003. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills signs for Telford". BBC Sport. 7 July 2003. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills faces long lay-off". BBC Sport. 2 February 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Molby ends Mills interest". BBC Sport. 13 July 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Mills keen to keep scoring". BBC Sport. 10 October 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Hyde/Mills released by Hereford". BBC Sport. 13 May 2005. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
- "Football: Poor run is due to player turnaround says Beaman". The Sentinel. 14 December 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
- "Lee Mills to manage Bridgnorth". Shropshire Star. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- "Town boss quits". bridgnorthjournal.com. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- "Lee Mills teams up with Matt Burton at Ellesmere". Shropshire Star. 4 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Ellesmere boss Lee Mills decides to take break". Shropshire Star. 3 January 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.