West Ham and England striker Dean Ashton today announced his retirement from professional football.
Ashton has succumbed to a long-term ankle problem which he initially sustained when training with England in August 2006.
The 26-year-old underwent several operations in a bid to overcome the problem but concerns for his mobility later in life prompted today’s decision.
West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury told the club's official website: ``This is a sad day and our thoughts are with Dean.
“I would like to place on record our thanks to him for all his efforts and wish him the very best. I would also like to thank the fans for their patience and understanding during what has been a difficult time.”
Ashton made his name at Crewe before joining Norwich in January 2005.
He netted 18 goals in 46 appearances for the Canaries, earning him a then club-record £7.25million move to West Ham.
Ashton made a good first impression, scoring the goals which took the Hammers to the FA Cup final, although he failed to land a place in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 2006 World Cup squad.
He was named in Steve McClaren’s first squad, for the game against Greece at Old Trafford, but was injured in a training ground clash with then Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The striker missed the whole 2006/07 season but returned to make 35 appearances in 2007/08.
He started the 2008/09 season in goalscoring form but broke down again after just four games because of the ankle injury.