Ashington CFC’s Gareth Rees has been forced to quit due to injury.
The 33-year-old, a popular figure in the Colliers’ dressing room, admitted to being devastated when announcing his decision.
After beginning senior soccer with Bedlington Terriers Reserves 12 years ago, the tall Rees, a contracts manager for a specialist interior contractor based in Cambois, who operated at full back or in the centre of defence, had a one-year spell with Ashington Colliers before being called up into the first team squad.
He played his last game for Gary Middleton’s outfit in March 2012, missing the run-in to the end of the season to have eye surgery.
But it is a freak injury which has led to the Blyth born player’s career being curtailed.
At the end of May, he innocuously damaged his interior cruciate on the 3G surface at the Hirst Welfare, and in the December of 2012 had full ACL construction surgery on his right knee.
Following eight months of intensive physiotherapy, Stakeford-based Rees returned for pre-season but his knee buckled.
He sort advice with his consultant and three months later attempted another comeback but his knee collapsed again.
Eventually after meeting with the surgeon and following a scan, he was told that the original operation had been a mechanical failure during the early stages of recovery.
Rees was given the opportunity to undergo surgery again but decided ‘enough was enough’.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” he said. “I could have gone through the operation again but to be out for another 18 months would have pushed my age up to 35.
“I would then not have kicked a ball for four years so I decided enough was enough and have announced my retirement from the game.”
Looking back, Rees said: “Amongst the highlights were playing in Ashington’s FA Cup exploits during the 2011-12 campaign when we beat Vauxhall Motors 1-0 in a replay after a 3-3 draw at home.
“Our run in the FA Vase also features as well as clashes against Newcastle United Reserves in the Northumberland Senior Cup.
“I also had the privilege of being on the same park with, and against, some good players, and although I didn’t score too many goals, the one I will most treasure came in an FA Cup tie.” He concluded: “I’d like to express my thanks to Gary Middleton the manager at Ashington CFC; team boss David Brown and the backroom staff including Louis and Vicky Brown from Ashington Colliers; the supporters and the committees.”
David Brown said: “Gareth was a fantastic player for the Colliers.
“He was a great lad to have in the dressing room, being a credit to himself, and it was a great thrill for myself when he established himself in the first team.
“He would be more than welcome to come along to be involved in the game with us and in a way put some of his knowledge back into the game.
“He is a really nice lad and a pure gentleman, and I can’t speak highly enough of him.”
Ashington CFC chairman Ian Lavery said: “Gareth has been a shining example of professionalism when playing for Ashington CFC.
“He gave 150 per cent on every outing and it is sad to hear the news of his early retirement from the game.
“I personally, on behalf of the club, wish him the very best of luck for the future and assure him that he will be welcome at Woodhorn Lane any time.”