West Ham striker Dean Ashton retires because of injury
West Ham's former England striker Dean Ashton has announced his retirement at the age of 26 after failing to recover from a long-term ankle injury.
He underwent several operations but was unable to return to full fitness and has followed medical advice to retire.
West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury told the club's website: "This is a sad day and our thoughts are with Dean."
Ashton scored 19 goals in 56 appearances for the Hammers after joining them from Norwich in a £7.25m move in January 2006.
The former Crewe striker earned an England call-up for the friendly with Greece in August 2006, but he broke his ankle in training for that game and missed the whole of the 2006-07 season.
He returned to play 35 games in 2007-08 and made his England debut under Fabio Capello in May 2008 when he faced Trinidad & Tobago.
Ashton signed a new five-year contract at Upton Park that summer but sprained his ankle in training September 2008 and did not play competitively again.
He made several attempts to return but concerns that continuing his career would affect his mobility later in life led him to decide to end his playing career.
Duxbury added: "I would like to place on record our thanks to him for all his efforts and wish him the very best.
"I would also like to thank the fans for their patience and understanding during what has been a difficult time."
Crewe manager Dario Gradi, who gave Ashton his professional debut at the age of 16, was not surprised by the announcement.
"We'd all seen it coming for a long time," Gradi said. "He's been injured for a while and I think that Dean was prepared for it.
"It's a shame for Dean but it's a great shame for England. They are crying out for a big striker and that is what he is.
"The saving grace for Dean is that he has had a bit of a career and will have made enough money not to have to work again."
Ashton's agent Darren Bossons declined to comment on reports that Ashton may look to take legal action against Shaun Wright-Phillips, who caused the striker's initial injury with a challenge during an England training session in August 2006.
And Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor hopes Ashton does not go down that route.
Taylor said: "I hope it doesn't come to that because nobody would think that Shaun Wright-Phillips was a malicious player at all.
"At the moment we've been speaking to his [Ashton's] representatives and the situation is about looking to get proper compensation without discussing any player-v-player action."
He's only 26, poor guy. :/
Also, unrelated, I really need to stop confusing West Ham and Aston Villa. It's even worse now Burnley are in the league! *is confused*