Joe Thompson: Rochdale midfielder to retire from professional football

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Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson's battle against cancer

Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson, who twice recovered from cancer during his career, has announced he is retiring from professional football.

The 29-year-old played 203 games for Dale and said he had "pushed his body to the absolute limit".

After returning for the second time in December 2017, Thompson went on to score the goal that saw his side avoid League One relegation last season.

"My decision to retire is one of the hardest I've ever made," he said.

"I have battled through some of life's hardest challenges and have managed to overcome them. However, I've pushed my body to the absolute limit.

"My mind has grown stronger but with the intense treatment my body has had to endure over the last six years it is no longer able to perform to the demands of the professional game."

Thompson will attend Saturday's League One game against Coventry to say farewell to supporters and fans will be encouraged to applaud in the 15th minute - Thompson's squad number.

He was first diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma while at Tranmere Rovers in 2013 and given the all-clear in 2014.

After being diagnosed with cancer again in March 2017, he was in complete remission and returned for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

Thompson, who said he would now pursue a career in motivational speaking, mentoring and the media, added: "I believe I have a duty to mentor to younger professionals in the game.

"I also feel my story has the power to help others in all walks of life to overcome their own adversities and empower them to fulfil their potential."

Analysis

BBC Radio Manchester sport editor Bill Rice

Coming off the bench to score the goal that keeps your side up on the final day of the season would be the pinnacle of many players' careers, but for Joe Thompson it only tells part of an incredible story.

Football is all about highs and lows, but it would take something very special to outdo Thomson's Cinderella end to his footballing career.

After being diagnosed with cancer for a second time, most feared he would never take to the field again, but most have clearly never met the man and don't appreciate his incredible fighting spirit.

He not only got back on the pitch, but achieved his dreams - playing at Wembley for Rochdale against Tottenham in the FA Cup, and then coming off the bench to score the goal against Charlton that secured Dale's League One safety on the final day of the season.

If anything, all he had been through off the field only made his resolution stronger and kept him level headed through it all. Having met the man many times he is an inspiration, and he can continue to be one in whatever career he opts for after football.