FOR someone used to being at Valley Parade or Huddersfield or Birmingham’s St Andrew's, the venue on the opening day of the season was a new one for Lee Novak.

“I was taking my daughter to a kids party,” he smiled. “That’s something I’ve not done before.

“My Saturday was very different to what I’d have normally been doing.”

Novak admits it hasn’t really sunk in yet that the shooting boots are hung up for good, although the bonus family time is appreciated.

He called it quits in the summer as the knee injury suffered in a training game in January turned out to be a bigger problem than expected.

After three months out, Novak featured in the final games of last season but knew the message from his body was clear.

“I just didn’t feel right and was struggling afterwards,” he said.

“Because I was out of contract I wanted to get back just to prove that I was all right. But deep down, I knew I was pushing it.

“I spoke to (head physio) Chris Royston and he just told me to have a break for a few weeks.

“But then I tried to do a little jog and something didn’t feel good. So, we got a scan and found out the injury had got a lot worse.”

Novak’s mind was made up with a visit to London where a specialist advised him to stop right away before causing lasting damage.

“As soon as he mentioned my daughter saying you don’t want to struggle playing with her, that’s when it hit home that I had a decision to make.

“Family comes first before everything and to be able to play with her is huge. I know that if I’d carried on, I would have been going down the slippery slope where I wouldn’t have been able to.”

But Novak aims to stay in football in a different capacity as he takes up the chance to move into agency work.

He hopes that coming fresh out of the game allows him a good insight of what young players will face.

“Football changes day to day and I’ve been in every scenario at clubs,” he added. “One minute you’re loved, the next you’re not wanted and sometimes lads do need some direction.

“I’m quite a level-headed guy and having an agent you can trust is massive. I’ve always liked that side of the game.

“I’ve spoken to a few people since I made the decision and they say I’m the cheeriest guy they know who’s had to stop playing.

“A lot of people struggle but at the minute I’m fine and I’ve been given an opportunity to stay in the game in some sort of capacity. As one door closes, another opens.

“But right now, I am enjoying a little break and letting my body relax after having a long career.”

City were the last of his six clubs in a 12-year span that began with Huddersfield and saw him net 107 goals in three different divisions.

“If someone had told me as a 19-year-old lad at Gateshead that you were going to play for these clubs and score the goals you did, I’d have thought they were mad.

“Not many people can say they’ve played for the clubs I did at every level apart from the Premier League.

“It probably hasn’t sunk in – it will at one point. Then I’ll think that I’ve done all right for myself, had a good career and I will look back with pride.”

And he did bow out with the honour of scoring the EFL’s goal of the season with that stunning overhead kick at Grimsby in December.

Novak’s only regret was that it was just team-mates, staff and the assembled media who were lucky enough to witness it.

He admitted: “Scoring that goal in front of a full crowd would have been the perfect way out. But it’s not a bad way to finish.

“I’ve been to watch a couple of games and thought it might be weird but it wasn’t too bad.

“It’s having a different outlook on the game where there was no pressure and I wasn’t worried about the results. It was nice.

“I still speak to a lot of the Bradford lads and I’m going to come to one of the games.

“You ideally don’t want the last year of your career to be with no fans, especially with the size of the club at Bradford.

“To go out there and play in front of that noise again would have been great. I speak to the other lads and they’ve been saying that the crowds are huge.

“I’m going to come to one of the games. I spoke to Ryan (Sparks) when I announced on social media that I was retiring and he said I’d always be welcome back.

“There was nearly 18,000 on my debut against Grimsby which is absolutely insane and I really do hope they get over the line and start climbing back up the leagues.”