11 players who were forced to retire early: Ashton, Petit, Holden…

Quick Reads

Former Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham players have all been forced into an early retirement due to unfortunate injury problems.

It is always sad to look back on what could have been, especially with some of the outstanding talent that often gets ruined by injuries curtailing careers before they have even begun.

We’ve taken a look back at some of the most high-profile examples of the players who have unfortunately retired against their own will.


Dean Ashton

A tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips in England training was what ultimately ended the career of a really promising and exciting goalscorer.

Seven years after scoring *that* overhead kick at Old Trafford, and six years after retiring, Ashton went and did this in Mark Noble’s testimonial.

Stuart Holden

A sad tale of events which began with a tackle from Jonny Evans at Old Trafford which left Holden with a fractured femur, cartilage damage and a gash which required 26 stitches.

Just Fontaine

French striker Fontaine earned the golden boot at the 1958 World Cup and came third in the Ballon D’Or in the same year.

In 283 club career appearances, Fontaine rattled in an incredible 259 goals, but it is he is remembered most fondly for his performances for France, scoring 13 at the aforementioned World Cup, and retiring with a record of 30 goals in 21 appearances for Les Bleus.

The French Football Federation named him as their best player of the last 50 years in 2003, while Pele named him as one of the 125 greatest living footballers. If only injuries didn’t force his retirement at the age of 28.

Michael Johnson

While former managers were left frustrated with Johnson’s poor mindset, it was revealed following his release by Manchester City that he had in fact been undergoing treatment for mental health problems for several years – during the time that injuries were keeping him off the field.

While all cases of players getting injuries are sad, this seems like a particular waste of talent seeing as Johnson made 36 Premier League appearances in his teens before injuries took hold.

The midfielder officially retired aged 24 in 2012 but he made only 11 appearances after his 20th birthday. Johnson now owns an estate agents in Trafford.

Emmanuel Petit

After nine years at Monaco, moved to the Premier League with former boss Arsene Wenger in 1997. He went on to play for Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea before turning down offers elsewhere and retiring in 2004 due to persistent knee injuries.

We’re still big fans of him winning €17,000 on a slot machine in Monte Carlo and giving it all to charity in 1998. What a man.

Jamie Redknapp

It is a shame that Redknapp will always be remembered for his injuries rather than almost 10 years playing in central midfield for Liverpool. His injury problems began in 2000 and he eventually retired in 2005 after a handful of games under dad Harry at Southampton.

But maybe his retirement was a good thing, because it means we get ridiculous moments like this.

Seth Johnson

After his solitary England cap in 2000, Leeds paid £7million for Johnson the following year, but injury problems meant he made just 54 league appearances at Elland Road before being released.

He returned to Derby thereafter and managed to get back out on the field before eventually retiring aged 28.

READ: Seth Johnson: I wasn’t even there for Leeds contract negotiations

Pierluigi Casiraghi

Time at Monza, Juventus and Lazio preceeded Casiraghi’s eventual career-ending move to Chelsea, where he made just 10 appearances before colliding with West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.

Four years and 10 operations later, the Italian eventually retired in 2002, meaning he played his last game aged just 28.

READ: Pierluigi Casiraghi on what went wrong at Birmingham & Chelsea

Jack Collison

Collison’s character could never be doubted, playing in a cup match against Millwall just two days after his father died in a motorcycle crash while travelling to a match against Tottenham.

Injuries plagued his promising career, however, and he retired in 2016 aged just 28 after 12 appearances for Peterborough.


Ryan Mason

After attempting to regain fitness following a fractured skull last season, Mason this week announced his decision to retire on medical advice.

The former Tottenham man, who is Hull’s record signing, clashed heads with Gary Cahill in a match at Stamford Bridge last season and needed eight minutes of treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off.

Sam Hutchinson

Let’s end on a good story. Hutchinson retired while at Chelsea aged just 21 due to a recurring knee injury, but after making significant progress the club allowed him to return a year and a half later.

He is now at Sheffield Wednesday, where he says his injury has given him extra drive – and he has even moved from being a defender to become one of the most reliable central midfielders in the Championship, being voted the fans’ Player of the Month three times last season.

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