Former Mansfield Town captain Zander Diamond has spoken candidly about his heartbreaking decision to retire from professional football with injury at the age of 33.
Diamond has not played for the Stags this season since two back operations and has now decided to concentrate on looking after his family.
The centre half made over 450 appearances in a career which started at Aberdeen, where he made his senior debut in 2003.
“The decision was based on my my fitness, going forward in my life,” he said.
“I have got a young family at this moment in time and obviously it’s not a decision I have taken lightly.
“I have suffered for the last six or seven months with the injury and getting it diagnosed. I have had two epidurals and two operations.
“It got to a stage where in my last official game, where we won 1-0 at Chesterfield, I seemed to be fine after the two epidurals.
“But I was sort of playing through the pain barrier from February onwards.
“It was tough times but it was always a case you were going to play football.”
However, Diamond’s situation quickly worsened.
“After that game I was training as normal and then something just stuck in my back,” he said.
“I reported for training on Friday before Port Vale and I couldn’t lift my leg. I thought this is quite serious.
“Twelve hours later we had the paramedics out at the house with the disc on my nerves. That’s when it became a bit more real. I had my child standing over me and I was helpless.
“I was put on heavy dosage of medication and I didn’t feel myself.
“I went and had a scan and it said I had a problem with my back.
“That was when it was at its most severe. I couldn’t do anything and I lost a lot of weight as well.
“Being a footballer you don’t need that. I am not the biggest guy and I lost three or four kilos.”
Diamond’s football career saw him achieve his dream, though that dream is now sadly at an end.
“As I grew up all I wanted to do was play football,” he said.
“When you get picked up by football clubs it suddenly becomes that wee bit real.
“I was in a privileged position. I left school and went straight into professional football with Aberdeen and it’s all I’ve known in my life.
“But it’s not just me now. It’s my wife and my child, who have supported me through the dark times. I need to give something back and look after them.
“The support for me from friends and family has been astronomical and I thank them for that.”
Diamond, who also had spells with Oldham, Burton and Northampton, hopes supporters from all his clubs will remember him fondly.
“I’d like to be remembered as a player who gave his all, playing through injuries,” he said.
“There were a lot of times in my career, as an old school type of player, you play on with knocks and strains. But fans don’t see that.
“But you want to try to perform for the team and you put them first rather than yourself.
“I have been a whole-hearted defender who gave his all. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, but hopefully it was mostly positive.”