TRANMERE Rovers centre-half Andy Thorn has suffered the heartbreak all professional footballers have nightmares about . . . having to retire due to injury.

A long standing left knee problem has forced him to quit the game at the age of 32. Plagued by injuries since he joined Tranmere on a free transfer from Wimbledon in September, 1996, a specialist report last Wednesday confirmed the player's worst fears.

He decided it was best to retire because of future problems which that would result with his knee.

Thorn's greatest moment in his playing career came in 1988, winning an FA Cup winners' medal with Wimbledon against John Aldridge and Liverpool. "The less said about that the better!" joked Thorn sitting next to Aldridge at a Prenton Park press conference, on Monday.

Thorn was also in the Crystal Palace side that came close to beating Manchester United in the 1990 FA Cup, losing 1-0 in a Wembley final replay, after beating Liverpool again in the semi-final.

Ironically, it was a goal saving tackle during the FA Cup 3rd Round victory at Hereford United which resulted in Thorn being stretchered off, the last time he was to be seen in a Tranmere shirt.

Said Tranmere physio Les Parry: "Andy has had a long standing problem with his knees, especially his left knee. It was decided best to discontinue playing because of the detrimental effect on the state of his knee for the rest of his life if he were to play on."

Looking understandably stunned, Thorn said: "I wouldn't swap anything if I look back on my career. I don't know what to feel at this moment in time as it's all happened so quickly. I'm obviously disappointed, but it's something I've had for a while. I couldn't carry on with the pain I was getting and some mornings it took 20 minutes to get in and out of the car."

Rovers Player-manager John Aldridge said: "Andy's long term health comes before football and I really feel for him. He's never played when 100 per cent fit since he's been here, but he always battled and gave everything he could. He never let me down - he's welcome back at this club anytime."

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