Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail
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 to 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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
I’ve had the time of my life playing the sport I love… it’s time to write the next chapters
Now the moment is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all for retirement
Crouch played with midfield great Steven Gerrard while at Premier League giants Liverpool
The former Liverpool man hits his hat-trick goal against Arsenal at Anfield back in 2007
Crouch celebrates Liverpool’s FA Cup win in 2006 with Pepe Reina (L) and Robbie Fowler (R)
He nearly won the Champions League in 2007 with Liverpool but they came undone in the final
Crouch in action for Liverpool during their Champions League semi-final win over Chelsea
The 38-year-old married his wife Abbey Clancy in 2011 – they have two daughters and two sons
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.
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.
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.
While at Tottenham, Crouch enjoyed feeding off of the pace of winger Gareth Bale
Crouch scores the goal against Man City that fired Tottenham into the Champions League
Crouch also enjoyed two spells at Portsmouth, between 2001-02 and 2008-09
Crouch played for Aston Villa between 2002-04 as he looked to make a name for himself
The striker’s first regular spell of action was with Queens Park Rangers as a teenager
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.
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 be 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.
Crouch celebrates at the 2006 World Cup with Wayne Rooney, who makes his best ever team
Crouch pictured sharing a joke with centre back John Terry during England training in 2007
Crouch performs his iconic ‘robot’ celebration after scoring against Jamaica in a friendly
Crouch heads home for England against Trinidad and Tobago during the 2006 World Cup
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.
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