LEE Osborne, one of Berry Hill's leading lights for the past two decades, is retiring from first-team rugby.

Osborne, nicknamed Shoe, grew up just a touch kick away from the Lakers Road ground and made his senior debut for the club at 17, versus Newquay Hornets on a pre-season tour to Cornwall.

Osborne also played for Berry Hill in their early days of league rugby.

The leagues back then consisted of just 10 matches a season – five at home and five away – and it was the luck of the draw who you played against.

In 1994/95 he stepped up to play for Gloucester against the top clubs in the land, making the transition with Berry Hill pal Adey Powles. Osborne said: "For two years I was pretty much a regular at Gloucester.

"People don't believe me when I tell them I was quick in my time and I played on the wing or in the centre.

"I wasn't sure about playing for Gloucester at first because I didn't know if I was good enough. Also, Berry Hill had just won promotion to the National Leagues at the time.

"I was encouraged along by the likes of Dave Sims and Mark Nicholls, who I had played with for the county."

Osborne helped Gloucester to some tremendous wins, even scoring all the points in a famous 9-3 victory over Leicester at Kingsholm.

He left Gloucester when Richard Hill took over as head coach.

In 1998 Osborne switched to Lydney, then a force in the National Leagues.

He said: "I really enjoyed my time at Lydney but the thing that killed it was all the travelling.

"We played a lot of the teams that Cinderford play now. We used a Coleford-based coach firm so I could be first on the bus for away games at 7.30am in the morning and last off at 10.30pm."

For the last 10 years Osborne has been helping Berry Hill to rise back up through the ranks.

He said: "It's where my heart is and even now it amazes me how much the club punches above its weight.

"I've had so many highlights, including playing for Gloucester.

"I've had some great wins with Berry Hill too and played scrum-half when we beat London Scottish in the cup.

"I played in two County Championship finals and some great Forest derbies.

"Berry Hill used to be on a par with Lydney and Cinderford and there was massive rivalry. A couple of thousand people would turn up to watch those games and they'd be hyped up for weeks."

Osborne says he plans to continue playing social rugby and has one burning ambition to fulfil – to win his Wappers cap and play his first ever game for the Berry Hill third XV.

He added: "I never really saw myself as a talented player, certainly compared with many of the other players I was lucky enough to play with. I just dedicated myself to getting the most out of what I had.

"The only advice I try and give young players is to give yourself every opportunity to succeed and not look back and think 'what if'. Hopefully I did just that."