West Ham United have today confirmed that striker Dean Ashton has retired from professional football.
The forward has been unable to recover properly from an ankle injury he sustained whilst on England duty back in August 2006.
"This is a sad day and our thoughts are with Dean," Hammers chief executive Scott Duxbury told the club's official website.
"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 has undergone surgery several times since the injury along with intensive rehabilitation. However, specialists have advised the 26-year-old that his continued mobility is at risk should he continue to try to play.
Ashton made his debut as a 17-year-old for Crewe Alexandra in October 2000. He then moved to Norwich City before joining the Hammers for a then club record fee of £7.25 million in January 2006.
Despite impressing in fits and starts, the ankle problem has meant that the striker has never been able to fully show his genuine class in east London.
Former Hammers striker Tony Cottee echoed the sadness of many at the news.
"I'm really, really disappointed," Cottee told Sky Sports News.
"I'm not surprised because I know what's been going on behind the scenes at the club.
"The club and the supporters have lost a very good player. I'm disappointed for England too because I think we could have done with him in the World Cup.
"But the person I'm saddest for is Dean Ashton himself. I think he's still only 25 years of age (sic). I was fortunate enough to play to the age of 36 and to lose ten years of your career after being injured for three years I really, really feel for Deano, I really do."
Zack Wilson, Goal.com UK