John Thompson: Scarred Mansfield defender forced to retire

John Thompson

Mansfield Town defender John Thompson has been forced to retire from professional football at the age of 31.

He has never fully recovered from the mental scars left by a terrible facial injury suffered in a pre-season friendly in 2011.

Ex-Republic of Ireland international Thompson said: "I have desperately tried to get back playing to my full potential for almost two years now.

"It's hugely frustrating but I'm at a point where I can't continue."

Thompson was left with a broken nose and needing nearly 60 stitches after the pre-season friendly against Ilkeston FC in August 2011.

Mansfield manager Paul Cox called the game off with 17 minutes left, with Thompson the third player to require hospital treatment after challenges by Ilkeston FC striker Gary Ricketts.

Ricketts was subsequently banned for two weeks and fined two weeks' wages by his club.

Thompson, who has only played 11 games for the Stags this season and has not featured since January, said: "It was something that should never have happened on a football pitch. I had almost 60 stitches in my face, broke my nose, damaged my shoulder and dislocated my finger.

"I needed to have a major operation on my nose so I could breathe through it again and I could only eat through a straw for nearly a month.

"When I eventually got back playing after overcoming most of the physical issues, I soon realised I was doing things which I wouldn't normally do on the pitch. Panic attacks were common and I would not be able to sleep before games. My confidence on and off the pitch had been severely knocked.

"I have done everything I can, even seeing a psychologist at my own expense. My recovery is still ongoing.

"The last two years have been the hardest of my life.

"In my time at Mansfield, I have only been able to show glimpses of what I can do and was unable to play to the same standard as I did previously in my career."

Dublin-born Thompson, who won three full international caps, began his career with Nottingham Forest as a trainee and played 148 games during a six-year spell at the City Ground from 2001.

He joined Oldham Athletic in June 2007 after a loan spell with Tranmere Rovers and then returned to Nottingham with Notts County in October 2008.

While at Meadow Lane, Thompson made more than 100 appearances for the Magpies and was captain of the side that won the League Two title in the 2009-10 season.

"I have been fortunate enough to have had a great career and played for some good clubs," Thompson continued.

"But after seeking medical advice and speaking to my family and friends I feel it is the right decision."

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Retirement is right call - Thompson

He added: "It was nice to finish my career by being a part of a Mansfield Town squad which has won the league and more importantly promotion back to the Football League, where the club deserves to be.

"I would like to thank everybody at Mansfield Town - the chairman, manager and particularly the fans who supported me patiently as I tried to get back playing.

"Living in Nottingham for so long I am particularly proud to have played for all three Nottinghamshire clubs - Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Mansfield Town - and wish all these clubs future success."

A Mansfield Town statement read: "We would like to wish John every success in his future career and thank him for his efforts whilst with us."