FORMER Irish international defender John Thompson has retired from football at the age of 31 after failing to recover from the trauma of horrific injuries he sustained in 2011.
Thompson was a member of Brian Kerr's U-16 team that won the European Championships in 1998 and was capped at senior level by Kerr after making the breakthrough to the first team with Nottingham Forest.
He failed to build on that early promise and had spells with Oldham and Notts County before joining Mansfield in 2011.
A pre-season friendly with Ilkeston FC effectively spelled the end of his career shortly afterwards.
The game was called off 17 minutes from time by the Mansfield manager after Thompson became the third player taken to hospital following challenges from Ilkeston striker Gary Ricketts, who was subsequently banned and fined by his club, but remains on the books of Ilkeston.
Thompson (left) required 60 stitches in his face and suffered a broken nose, damaged shoulder and broken finger. He admits that the incident affected his confidence and he has been sparingly involved since then.
"I needed to have a major operation on my nose, so I could breathe through it again and I could eat only through a straw for nearly a month," he said.
"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."