Preston North End striker Neil Mellor has been forced to call time on his playing career, after failing to recover from a serious knee injury.

The 29-year-old announced his retirement yesterday, saying it was the most difficult decision of his life, but on medical grounds and the advice of doctors, could not avoid the disappointing conclusion.

"I have agreed to keep lines of communication open with [Preston manager] Graham Westley just in case I come across a miracle cure but realistically, and regrettably, this is the end of my playing days," read a statement from Mellor on the club's website.

After starting his career as a trainee at Liverpool, Mellor made 21 appearances for the Reds, following his debut against Ipswich in December 2002. He is best remembered on Merseyside for the blistering volley he scored at Anfield against Arsenal in 2004.

With the game poised tentatively at 1-1, Mellor's strike clinched the game from Arsene Wenger's side, and ensured his name went down in Anfield folklore.

He signed for Preston in the summer of 2006 after loan spells at West Ham and Wigan Athletic, making a total of 193 appearances for the Lilywhites and scoring 63 goals.

Westley added: "The team's record without Neil this season says everything about the man and character that he is. I'm gutted that I didn't get the chance to work with him beyond his cameo against Bury. He has had a tough decision to make, but he has no real choice in the matter. Everybody here will wish him the very best."

After Mellor was forced into early retirement, GiveMeFootball looks back at other players taken from the game too early, after their careers were cut short by injury...


Dean Ashton: 2009

The former West Ham United, Norwich City and Crewe Alexandra striker was forced to retire from an injury suffered on England duty in August 2006, following a training ground tackle by Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Ashton made his name at Crewe before joining Norwich in January 2005. He scored 18 goals in 46 appearances for the Canaries, earning him a then club-record £7.25million move to Upton Park.

After suffering the injury in the build-up to England's game against Greece at Old Trafford, Ashton missed the entire 2006-07 season, but returned to make 35 appearances for West Ham in 2007-08.

His sole England cap came that same year, but after breaking down following a recurrence of the same ankle injury just four games into the 2008-09 campaign, a 26-year-old Ashton was advised by the surgeon who performed the original operation, that he risked rendering himself permanently unable to walk should he continue playing football.


Marco Van Basten: 1995

Widely regarded as one of the greatest forwards of all time, Van Basten - who played for Ajax and AC Milan during the 1980s and early 90s - scored a sensational 277 goals in a high-profile career, which sadly ended prematurely in 1995 as a result of an ankle injury suffered two years earlier.

The Dutchman's final game ended in disappointment after Milan's European Cup final defeat to Marseille in May 1993.

Van Basten missed the entire 1993-94 campaign (including Milan's Serie A title and European Cup success), and was also omitted from the Netherlands 1994 World Cup squad after orders from the Italian club, who feared it would ruin his rehabilitation.

After a series of setbacks and endless amounts of surgery, Van Basten spent his second consecutive season on the sidelines, out of action for the whole of 1994-95. He finally conceded defeat in his battle to recover on 17 August 1995.


Brian Clough: 1964

Best remembered as one of the great managers of the English game, Clough was also a distinguished player, establishing himself as a prolific striker during spells with both Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

With 251 goals in 274 starts, he remains one of the Football League's highest goalscorers, and was also rewarded with two England caps in 1959.

However, injury cut short Clough's playing career, when he was forced to retire at the age of 29, after sustaining anterior cruciate ligament damage in December 1962.

He made a brief return to action two years later, but could only manager three appearances before suffering a recurrence of the medial ligament injury that prompted his retirement in 1964.

The following year, Clough embarked on what would turn out to be an illustrious managerial career, starting out with Hartlepool United in 1965 and ending with Nottingham Forest in 1993.

Charismatic, outspoken and often controversial, his achievements with Derby County and Forest - two struggling provincial clubs with little prior history of success - both domestically and in Europe, are rated amongst the greatest in football history.

Topics:
#Neil Mellor
#League One
#Premier League
#Preston North End
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