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PETER CROUCH RETIRES: If you had told me I would get 42 England caps, play in finals for Liverpool and score to fire Tottenham into the Champions League, I would have had you locked up... I've had the time of my life

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 12/07/2019 Peter Crouch for the Daily Mail
© Reuters

I have had 23 years to prepare for this moment but, now it is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all. The time has come refer to myself as a 'former footballer'; this incredible journey I have been on since I was 16 is over.

My ambition was to play until I was 40, so it is scary saying the word 'retirement'. It has left me emotional and it feels weird not to be preparing for a new campaign but circumstances over the last couple of seasons have made me realise that this is the right thing to do.

To go from being a regular starter to someone whose role is limited to 10 or 15 minutes off the bench has been hard to accept. I will be 39 in January but I am physically fit and could have carried on. What I didn't want to be was someone who was thrown on to have balls smashed up to them.

a man throwing a ball: I've had the time of my life playing the sport I love... it's time to write the next chapters © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited I've had the time of my life playing the sport I love... it's time to write the next chapters

MY TOP FIVE GOALS 

1 – Volley for Stoke v Man City (March 24, 2012)

2 – Scissor-kick for Liverpool v Galatasary (September 27, 2006)

3 – Left-foot shot to complete hat-trick for Liverpool v Arsenal in front of The Kop (March 31, 2007)

a group of people watching a football game: The former Liverpool man hits his hat-trick goal against Arsenal at Anfield back in 2007 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The former Liverpool man hits his hat-trick goal against Arsenal at Anfield back in 2007

4 – Scissor-kick for Portsmouth v Stoke (October 5, 2008)

5 – Finish against Man City to put Spurs in CL (May 5, 2010)

So this announcement feels a bit surreal. We have just welcomed our fourth child, Jack, into the family and the wonderful chaos that comes with a new baby means it hasn't really hit me that I haven't gone back for pre-season training. Life is hectic in a brilliant way.

a man reaching into the air to catch a frisbee: Now the moment is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all for retirement © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Now the moment is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all for retirement

But I know there is going to be a point when it really hits me. Football has opened up avenues that I never thought were possible when I started scoring goals in the Hayes and District league as an Under-10. Football, simply, made my dreams come true.

I think back to when I was 17. I was a trainee at Tottenham then but there were 10 forwards in front of me, blocking my route to the first team. They loaned me out to Dulwich Hamlet then I went to IFK Hassleholm in Sweden. Let's be honest – you would not have taken odds on me making it then.

a group of football players on a field: Crouch played with midfield great Steven Gerrard while at Premier League giants Liverpool © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Crouch played with midfield great Steven Gerrard while at Premier League giants Liverpool

If you had told me at that point I would go on to play for England 42 times and score 22 goals, play for Liverpool in a Champions League and FA Cup final and score the goal that put Tottenham back in the European Cup for the first time in four decades, I would have had you locked up.

That, though, is what happened and I remember a conversation with my Dad when I was on international duty that put everything into context. We were talking about the England No 9 shirt and how every kid in the country who kicks a ball around hopes they will wear it one day.

a man standing in front of a crowd: He nearly won the Champions League in 2007 with Liverpool but they came undone in the final © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited He nearly won the Champions League in 2007 with Liverpool but they came undone in the final

As it happened, I wore the No 9 jersey later that afternoon. I have been blessed and I'd like to think people recognise how much I have enjoyed my career; wherever I have been, I've always had a great affinity with supporters. I think it was obvious each time I scored for their club I was so happy.

a group of people watching a football game: Crouch also enjoyed two spells at Portsmouth, between 2001-02 and 2008-09 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Crouch also enjoyed two spells at Portsmouth, between 2001-02 and 2008-09

Those clubs – from QPR to Norwich, Aston Villa, Southampton, Tottenham, Liverpool, Stoke and Burnley – need not think they have seen the last of me. I am going to have to find some way of staying in football and I plan to go and watch all of them play next season.

Burnley, really, was the ideal place to finish. I didn't make the biggest impact after I went there in January but I was so glad I went. Sean Dyche is a top manager and the boys are quality. They have a fantastic set up and I loved going in every day. They are a great club.

While at Tottenham, Crouch enjoyed feeding off of the pace of winger Gareth Bale © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited While at Tottenham, Crouch enjoyed feeding off of the pace of winger Gareth Bale

The transition from the pitch to the 'normal' world should be easier, as I have a number of projects to keep me busy. You can rest assured, also, that my Sportsmail column will be published every week throughout the season.

I'm thankful to have these opportunities to keep me close to the game. I have seen players who have stopped and had nothing to go to struggle to adapt; football is so good I can understand why there have been cases of some individuals suffering depression in retirement.

a football player on a field: Crouch celebrates at the 2006 World Cup with Wayne Rooney, who makes his best ever team © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Crouch celebrates at the 2006 World Cup with Wayne Rooney, who makes his best ever team

Nothing professionally will come close to what the last 23 years have provided. I'm currently decorating my office and I'm putting pictures on the walls from various points of my career, pictures which have made me think.

There is Liverpool's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea in 2007, images of me walking out for England at World Cups when the nation is willing you on; my first goal for QPR against Gillingham in September 2000, winning the FA Cup.

a group of people watching a football ball on a field: Crouch performs his iconic 'robot' celebration after scoring against Jamaica in a friendly © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Crouch performs his iconic 'robot' celebration after scoring against Jamaica in a friendly

Collecting shirts was never something that interested me but I collected memories and have stories that I will be able to tell my children's children. This former footballer had the time of his life. It's time to write the next chapters.

MY DREAM TEAM: BEST PLAYERS I'VE PLAYED WITH (4-3-3)

Reina: Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Ashley Cole: Luka Modric, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso: Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres, Gareth Bale

a close up of a mans face © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

Related: Peter Crouch's best footballing moments [Read Sport]

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