The City Academy product was one of English football’s finest midfield talents having emerged during the late 1980s and was tipped by many to go and become a future England star.
However, a serious ankle injury sustained against Aston Villa in 1990 marked the start of a brave but ultimately unsuccessful five-year battle to revive his career.
And, as Lake reveals with searing honesty in the fascinating episode from the initial five-part series of our newly launched official Man City Podcast, he was prepared to try everything in a bid to find a cure for his injury.
Paul, who is joined in a fascinating and honest Podcast by his wife Jo, also talks about the struggles emotionally and practically of having to adjust to a new way of life as he sought to navigate a new route to try and make a living.
Reflecting on the moment he knew his playing days were over, Lake told the Podcast: “Well, I think it's the kind of realisation that this is it. You know, it was almost as if it was inevitable, but yeah, you kind of hoping against hope and I'd had all kinds of treatment after that. I'd had acupuncture.
“I'd been to see a faith healer, which looking back was quite comical. But for some people it works. I'm not knocking them for that.
“But for me, thinking back, I was just, you know, desperate, hoping for a miracle, and nothing, you know, coming around the corner for me. And it's the fact that you say, it's the realisation this is the end, it stops now.
“And for lots of footballers, they have a routine and know nothing else from such a young age.
“They've known nothing else. That's been their routine, that's been that consistency in their life and going for something which they've loved.
“So not just the adulation of playing in front of thousands of fans, playing for the team that you love, being well paid as well in some instances, but then it has to come to an end for every single player.
“No matter who you are, it doesn't last forever, but then you did not experience those highs and lows first for three and a half seasons which had happened to me then, and then having to completely stop, for my routine to stop, to know that I had to stop trying, it was enough. I had to then have major surgery and be on crutches again for six months.
“And to battle through that to get myself fit just to walk around and not having a career to fall back on, because in those days, it was either or.
“It was either if you're going to try and do college work or education while you're a footballer, then you might as well call it quits because you're not committed enough, which is a nonsense, but at the time, that was the perception.
“So, I was OK at school, but this this (football) was my calling that I was having to give up. It wasn't just a livelihood, and having to come from that to find something else which is going to try in some way pay for a mortgage give me some kind of a financial support for the months and years to come.”
Lake also details in the Podcast the physical and practical challenges that entailed as he looked to embark on a new avenue returning to study at college in an era where footballers were afforded far less practical support at the end of their playing days.
And he admits that even in the midst of his new routine, the emotional pull of City and the career that was so cruelly cut short was never far away.
“Then I had to go back to do an access course, at Manchester College, where I was the oldest swinger in town to them, and then some, you know,” Lake added in the Man City Podcast.
“It wasn't so much that it was humiliating, but the fact that it was like that door slammed shut, and I felt embarrassed and nervous and lacking confidence.
“You had to do this off your own back. There was no guidance support as to what you do after your career.
“It was just a case of well, the PFA will say: ‘Look, if you can get access in this you can get on the Chartered Physiotherapy degree course at Salford and do something that way.
“But that was off your own back and to do that, having to do access courses and find that and do an A level at night school.
“And it was knowing that that that was what I had to deal with. I had to get myself fit first just to be able to get to college, and then go into college, whilst I was coming off crutches as well.
“And because of the emotional turmoil of all of that, not been able to deal with it, trying to focus on education where it was completely new to me trying to find my way through it and realise that whenever I turn the light off, I could see Maine Road.”
The official Man City Podcast was launched this week.
Alternatively, you can also listen directly on mancity.com, here.