Fleming forced to retire

Chris Lakey Ex-Canaries skipper Craig Fleming is hanging up his boots after failing to shake off a troublesome ankle injury.The 36-year-old underwent surgery last week, but on medical advice, has decided to call it and day after a career spanning 20 years.

Chris Lakey

Ex-Canaries skipper Craig Fleming is hanging up his boots after failing to shake off a troublesome ankle injury.

The 36-year-old underwent surgery last week, but on medical advice, has decided to call it a day after a career spanning 20 years.

"I just haven't been able to shake it off," said Fleming (pictured). "And the advice is that I won't be able to so that's it.


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"It's the result of playing professional football for 20 years I suppose, but whereas I used to be able to take a couple of tablets and I'd get rid of a problem, this one just won't be going away if I continue playing.

"It's not exactly a shock when you are a 36-year-old - it would have been much worse had I been 10 years younger and still in the prime of my career.

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"Even so, it is hugely disappointing because football has been amazing to me - it's the best job I could ever have hoped to have."

Fleming's last game was against Bromsgrove in October, after which he realised something was badly wrong.

"Before the game it didn't feel too great and afterwards I went home and it gave way," he said. "I went to watch my lad the next morning and it was still playing up and I just couldn't shake it off."

Fleming has already informed King's Lynn boss Keith Webb of his decision and says he wishes he could have done more to help his former Norwich City colleague's promotion challenge this season.

"It's frustrating because although I was sort of winding down, I went to Lynn with the best of intentions," he said. "I had more or less retired but I was really up for it and I wanted to get stuck in.

"I enjoyed playing there and I really wanted to be involved at the end of the season.

"I'm confident Webby has a good thing going there and I think he will get them promoted this season - I wish him the best of luck and I hope the club and the fans back him to the hilt, because he is definitely the right man for the job."

Fleming - who always prided himself on his physical fitness - now looks set to pursue a new career in personal fitness and nutrition.

""I thought about other things, like the restaurant business, but fitness is what I know, it's what I've done for so long as a footballer so it's a logical step," he said.

"Football is obviously my first love, but I am not about to leave Norfolk because I am not prepared to move our children around the country to follow jobs. I'd still love to be involved, but not if it involves moving away."

Fleming played more than 600 games in a career which began at his hometown club, Halifax, before taking him to Oldham, where he played in the Premiership and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup and then, in August, 1997, to Carrow Road, with Mike Walker paying £600,000 for his services.

"I had some great times at Oldham, playing in the Premiership for three or four years and in FA Cup semi-finals, but the place I feel I belong to is Norwich," he said. "Maybe it was the age period I played for City, but that's where I played my best football and being named Player of the Season in 2004 at the same time as leading City to promotion was the highlight."

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