Steven Reid: I broke down in tears in Aldi supermarket car park before announcing retirement
Published 19/05/2015 | 02:30
At 10.55am yesterday morning, I pulled into the car park of an Aldi supermarket which I pass on the way to training every day.
The rain was pouring down and I deliberately parked in the furthest corner so nobody could see me. It was a strange place to announce my retirement from football, a setting which doesn't really tie in with the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.
But I had a deadline to meet as part of an arrangement with Burnley about how we would handle the news that I was done.
I'd told Sean Dyche, my old Millwall team-mate, that I would be stepping away a couple of months back. This was scheduled as the day of the announcement.
Burnley would put out a statement at 11.0am but just before they did that, I'd send a tweet confirming my decision because I wanted to add a personal touch.
I thought it would be easy. There were friends and family visiting this weekend and I was quite matter-of-fact about the whole thing; I slept soundly on Sunday night.
Yet when the moment came, I felt different. I'd noticed something that morning, the butterflies that I would normally associate with match day. The sense that something big was about to happen.
From a position of being certain about what I was doing, I suddenly found that my hands were trembling as doubts crept into my head. Was this really the end? Could the body handle another year?
But I knew this was it. "It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement from professional football at the end of the current season," I typed.
"There has been many highs and lows during my 17-year career and I would like to thank everybody, especially family, who have been part of the wonderful journey."
I pressed send and had a complete meltdown. The tears flowed as the phone lit up with overwhelming messages from friends and fans. There was no turning back now. All the emotion that I'd bottled up came out. I was a wreck - and glad I'd parked in a remote spot.
How did I feel when the tears dried? Honestly, I felt proud.
I've come close to quitting before. Five-and-a-half years ago, when I was on the way back from a knee injury at Blackburn, I went to QPR and could only get through one game. I thought I was finished.
At West Brom, I signed one-year deals to keep my options open. I remember a chat with the gaffer Steve Clarke after it turned out that I'd struggled through half a match against Arsenal in 2013 with a leg fracture.
Facing into a lay-off, I thought that was maybe a sign. We had a heart to heart and he told me to make sure I went out on my own terms. And I'm happy to say I've done that, at 34 years of age.
Sure, I'd have liked to play more than seven matches this season but I'm still in good shape physically, I can play with my kids Isla and Harry in the garden which wasn't always the case during some of the dark times when my injuries ended up making life tough for everyone.
The game has changed. I've changed. Sometimes I wonder about the impact of the lows, the cruciate problem which changed me as a player and perhaps stopped me from going on to bigger things. It's natural.
That's all ifs and buts, though. I had a good innings, I played at a World Cup and I feel a sense of achievement that when the big injury happened, I was able to re-invent myself as a full-back and last this long at the top level.
Dion Dublin called yesterday and we spoke about the contrast in generations, how the dressing room is no longer what it used to be. I walk in now and there's maybe 15 out of 20 lads on their phones. I'm guilty of it too.
When I started at Millwall under Billy Bonds, it was another world. I remember cleaning Dave Savage's boots and being part of an environment where there was respect for the older players, yet we were also encouraged to interact with them too.
Today, there's a get-rich-quick mentality. You need serious communication skills to motivate players, and that's the next challenge.
I'm not finished with this game; there's coaching badges to finish this summer and then it'll be onto the next chapter. After spending half my life enjoying this one, I'm ready to make that move.