FORMER Saints and Great Britain second row Lee Gilmour finally gets the chance to draw a line under his playing career ­— some four years after it ended ­— with the first of a series of testimonial events.

Gilmour, who combined quality workrate in defence with penetrative running on the edge, enjoyed six trophy-laden years at Knowsley Road.

And given the warmth of the reception he received every time he returned with Huddersfield, Castleford or Wakefield, the common consensus is that his departure from Saints at the end of 2009 was two years too soon.

Now an assistant coach at Wakefield, Gilmour’s playing career fizzled out after a series of moves and then a 13-month spell on the sidelines which meant there was never really any chance to pay tribute to his contribution to the game on the field.

Gilmour had enjoyed success with Wigan and Bradford, but his moved to Saints ahead of the 2004 season, was just what his career needed.

He explains: “I had played the utility man for three years at Wigan and then did the same at Bradford. I wanted to nail down a spot and play regular football in a set position.

“I spoke to Shaun McRae at Hull and also Saints.

“I am a big fan of Basil (Ian Millward) as a person and a coach and he saw me as the left second row moving forward.

“The way I play the game I am looking at quality ball players.

“At the time the three big reasons that I wanted to come to St Helens was Keiron Cunningham, basically the best 9 in the world, Sean Long ­— the best half back in the comp and Paul Sculthorpe at loose forward.

“All good ball players in a team that played an exciting brand of rugby.

“Having these three to run off meant everything just felt right.”

It soon felt even better when he was joined by a familiar face - a former Shaw Cross teammate Nick Fozzard who had been recruited from Warrington and the Yorkshire Bus began, being added to over the following two years by Paul Anderson and Leon Pryce.

Gilimour ultimately moved into the role of skipper Chris Joynt, who was in his final season at the club when he arrived.

And for that he is grateful.

“Joynty moved to the right edge and the middle in 2004 but I was glad I got the chance to play with him.

“He had been a brilliant captain and a calming influence on the team.

“Even though I had kind of come in to replace him, it was still nice to get that opportunity to play alongside him,” he said.

And there was something of a baptism of fire for Gilmour at Saints, with a swift return to Bradford in the cup.

That immediately demonstrated what being at Saints was all about.

“We pulled out my old club Bradford in the first round at Odsal and they were champions and it was a huge game.

“After the draw me and Fozz drove over to training and were talking about it. When we got there nobody mentioned it, which was strange.

“I said to Longy, ‘We have Bradford in the cup, how come nobody is talking about it?’

“And without any arrogance, Longy simply said, ‘Because we’ll beat em.’ That summed up the environment that I had come into - a special team with great players.”

That cup run to Cardiff saw Saints then face other top five teams en route to the final - Leeds, Hull, Huddersfield and then Wigan.

And the finale at the Millennium Stadium was particularly special, ending a spell of three Challenge Cup final defeats by Wigan.

“Saints v Wigan games were huge - I knew that from my Wigan days.

“It was the first time I had started a Challenge Cup final we got off to that great start. Jason Hooper charged down a Kris Radlinski kick, Willie Talau picked up and passed it wide to me and I just raced to the line. It was a dream start and that was really special.

“Every final is special - but when you are playing for Saints against Wigan you know how special that is, with that rivalry. You are aware who you are playing against against and know how much it means to your fans.”

There was turbulence too, and the departure of Millward in 2005 did leave him scratching his head.

But all came good in the arrival of Daniel Anderson, who guided the team to a treble n 2006.

Gilmour added: “I really rated rated Basil - he gave me confidence, I enjoyed his personality and thought how are we going to replace him?

“Then Daniel came in and he just improved us so much, particularly in defence.”

“He was a much quieter guy - but I found myself nodding every time he spoke about what we needed to do.

“We had a lot of opinions and knowledge from the team - and if they are all agreeing then he must be talking sense. We had some big personalities too.

“It was just a pity we did not win more Grand Finals - losing three on the bounce broke my heart really. Especially after finishing top.”

His work at Saints was appreciated by Anderson, who when asked to sum up his play in a sentence said: “Gilly was always in the trenches and is up there with one of the toughest players I have ever coached.”

Gilmour reluctantly moved on to Huddersfield at the end of 2009 as Saints tried to give youth its head in the shape of Matty Ashurst and Andrew Dixon.

But he always received a warm welcome on his return.

“I remember scoring first time I came to the new stadium, and I got a big cheer from the Saints fans - and that was nice. I would have loved to have had 10 years here.

“The time here was the happiest of my career - the lads and fans were great and it was a family atmosphere at Knowsley Road but all good things must come to an end.

“But I do think it was too early,”he said

“With my moves and then injuries- which saw me him out of the game for 13 months - my playing career fizzled out and never really got time to say thanks, or have an article written about me ending or draw a line under it.

Looking forward at the end of it just to say thank you - it gives me a chance to put a closure on my playing career - even though it ended four years ago. meet the fans that supported me and have a celebration of my career.

It felt weird - it just ended and then move on to coaching.

Gilmour will be joined at the Saints forum on Tuesday, 13 November by James Graham, Leon Pryce and Nick Fozzard.

Tickets: Brian Wright on 07549731707 or Dave Howarth on 07908646569.