In a revealing episode of Off Script, both Jamie Redknapp and Alan Smith open up on the psychological impact of early retirement from football, and their advice for younger players today.
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Redknapp, who retired from the game at 31, was blighted with injury issues throughout his career, going through over a dozen surgery procedures, while Smith retired at 32 after suffering a knee injury while playing for Arsenal.
Both had successful careers – Redknapp played 18 times for England, and was at Liverpool for nearly 12 years, while Smith scored over 200 career goals and won five major trophies at Arsenal – but this didn’t reduce the anguish both players suffered upon retirement.
Here, Redknapp and Smith recount the moments they knew it was time to retire…
Redknapp: I cried my eyes out
Redknapp, then at Southampton, was forced to retire in 2005, and recalls his rollercoaster of emotions having just watching Liverpool win the Champions League against AC Milan.
“It’s a painful part of the game, and it’s certainly something I had to deal with. It’s never easy. I was pretty good as a young player, and didn’t have many injuries. But I ended up having 12 or 13 knee operations, bone on bone, meniscus taken out, and sometimes you look back and think: ‘If things had gone a bit differently, or if I’d played today with the technology they have, would I have managed the injuries differently?’
“I was around 27 when I had surgery at Liverpool – I was bone on bone on my knee – I had surgery in Sheffield, which didn’t work, and I ended up going to America to see Dr Richard Steadman, the No 1 knee surgeon at the time and an amazing guy. He gave me a couple of extra years in my career, but I couldn’t play to the level I wanted.
“It was difficult playing against players who I felt weren’t as good as me, but all of a sudden they are running past me. I could only start to train on the Thursday because I was managing the injury just to get through it.
“I remember Dr Steadman coming into the room in Colorado – it was that morning that Liverpool won the Champions League. The mixed emotions I had from the team I supported winning the Champions League, to being told I would never play football again… I can’t lie, I cried my eyes out, because it was heartbreaking.