ALTRINCHAM FC’S Danny Higginbotham has quit the club and retired from playing football just a week after signing for the club.
The announcement was made on the club’s official website last night, Wednesday and Altrincham FC joint press and media officer, John Edwards, wrote: “An emotional Danny Higginbotham has admitted time has caught up with him and announced his retirement from football with immediate effect.”
The website statement went on to say that in a shock development that comes just a week after he signed from Chester, the 34-year old former Manchester United, Southampton and Stoke defender has reluctantly, and with regret, ended his brief Altrincham stay and accepted his career is over.
Describing how joining his home town club was one last attempt to rekindle his love of playing, Higginbotham reflected on a decision that came after days of soul-searching and heart-to-heart talks with friends, family and colleagues in the game.
Speaking Edwards, he said: “I realise this will come completely out of the blue to a lot of people, but, believe me, it is not a decision that has been taken lightly. It is a massive step to hang up your boots and accept you are finished, but it’s one I could not avoid.
“The plain truth is, I have been going on to the pitch recently not wanting to get hurt. It’s almost like I’ve been going through the motions, and that’s not me. I haven’t been enjoying it, and I haven’t been giving my best, and that’s not only out of character but something I can’t live with. I have never short-changed anyone in my life, and I’m not about to start now, especially with a club and set of supporters as close to my heart as Altrincham.
“That pointed to just one conclusion and, while I’ll never forget signing forms at the ground and pulling on the shirt, I’m just desperately sorry it’s all over after only two games.
“To be honest, the downward spiral started when I decided I’d had enough of full-time football with still a year left on my contract. That told me something, but I still went to Chester because my media work was taking off and I wanted to show there was still something left in the tank. For the first few weeks, I enjoyed it and thought it might work out.
“I got on brilliantly with everyone, but that enjoyment didn’t last. I actually began to find that after every game, I had only one thought in mind. Win, lose or draw, I couldn’t wait to get back home.
“That’s not right, and it’s not me. I’m the first to admit the long and successful career I’ve had in the game has not been based on technical ability. It has been down to desire and a wholehearted approach. I have always given everything, every last drop but, for a while now, that hasn’t been the case. The moment that starts to wane, you’ve got to think about calling it a day.
“Looking back, I should probably have quit when I left Chester, but I couldn’t pass up the chance of joining Alty. I always said I would play for the club I have always supported and I genuinely hoped it would prove the catalyst for firing me up again and getting me back to how I used to be.
“But the harsh reality is, it didn’t and, if anything confirms it is time to go, then that’s it. It was just surreal wearing the jersey and walking down the tunnel after all those years watching hundreds of games from the terraces, and I wouldn’t have missed it.
“But what outweighs everything is that I absolutely refuse to pick up money from the club under false pretences. I signed for the rest of the season, with the option of another season, but if I can’t give my best, I’m not going to try and hoodwink anyone.
“It comes to us all at some time or other, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I desperately wanted to help us to promotion, as a minimum, but there was simply no hiding from the truth. I’ve been going through the motions, and that’s not right. Even on my debut against Leamington, the other lads were working their socks off to get the result that finally went our way, and it struck me they deserved a place in the side far more than I did.
“Last night at Gainsborough just confirmed it. It wasn’t because we lost. I can take a defeat. I just wasn’t enjoying it and wasn’t putting my body on the line like I used to in my Premier League days, and I just couldn’t put it off any longer.
“I spoke to Neil Tolson and asked about how he knew the time was right to finish, and then I spoke to the manager. And I have to say, Lee Sinnott was unbelievable, absolutely brilliant. He asked me how I was feeling, and I poured it all out to him. I told him exactly what was going through my mind and asked what he thought, and he just said: “I think you’ve answered your own question.”
“I have talked this over with so many people, because I have really struggled to get my head round the fact that I have had my fill of playing football and will not miss pulling on a pair of boots on a Saturday afternoon. It is so difficult to accept, and it has been an emotionally-draining few days trying to come to terms with stepping away from it all. But I remember Jamie Carragher saying “leave football before it leaves you”, and he was spot-on.
“I have discussed it at great length with my wife and family and former team-mates who have been in the same boat, like Rory Delap, Richard Cresswell and Michael Duberry.
“Michael said: ‘When the effort is a lot more than the rewards you’re getting out of it, then something’s not right’. Again, spot on. It has been an honour and a privilege to have had such a great career with so many outstanding clubs, and I only hope everyone connected with Altrincham understands why I have taken this step. I wanted it to work more than anything, but I can’t reverse what has been gradually taking hold for a while now.
“My parents, wife, colleagues, everyone I’ve spoken to has arrived at the same conclusion. I’m done for. I can only reiterate that it meant everything to me to tick that last box and call myself an Alty player, and I did it with every intention of making a right go of it and seeing this season out as a bare minimum. I wanted to play a part in getting us back up into the Conference Premier, then sit down in the summer and carefully consider the next step.
“That was the plan, but what matters more to me is giving value for money, and if I’m not putting in performances that justify the club’s outlay, it’s in everyone’s best interests to call a halt.
“One thing that won’t change is my allegiance to the club. Altrincham will always be special to me, and I will continue following the push for promotion every step of the way. It is a shame it won’t be from closer quarters, but, whichever way you look at it and no matter how hard it was to face up to it, it was a decision that couldn’t be put off any longer.
“I had to be true to myself, and if I had carried on pocketing money for the rest of the season, I’d have been letting down the rest of the players, the manager, the supporters and everyone connected with the club. I hope no-one thinks negatively of me, but the plain fact is, I couldn’t do that. That is the top and bottom of it, really.”