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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 12:42 UK

Villa's Laursen forced to retire

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Laursen applauded at news conference

Aston Villa captain Martin Laursen has announced his retirement after conceding defeat in his battle against persistent knee problems.

The 31-year-old former Denmark international suffered his latest injury against West Ham in December and has since made only one appearance.

"Five months ago I was flying, I was on top of my game," said Laursen, who made an unsuccessful return in March.

"But I can't recover from my injury - so I've got to retire."

Laursen, who made 91 appearances and scored 11 goals for Villa, admitted his decision was taken to help safeguard his long-term health.

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He said: "I've spent a while making up my mind, thinking about things. Deciding whether I wanted to go ahead with an operation and see if I could come back or whether I should retire.

"It would have been a big and difficult operation. At this point, I think it's better for my health and future life to say 'that's it'."

Manager Martin O'Neill praised the leadership qualities that persuaded him to make Laursen skipper at the beginning of this campaign.

"We've missed his defensive qualities, we've missed his goals at the other end, but mainly we've missed his influence in the team," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Over the last couple of seasons the influence he has exerted has really been terrific."

Jay Simpson and Martin Laursen
Laursen made his last appearance for Villa against local rivals West Brom

It had been hoped that as Laursen's most recent injury was to his right knee, which has been problem-free through his career, he would recover to play again this season.

But after aggravating the joint during Villa's win over West Brom in January, he underwent surgery and then suffered a further reaction during a training trip to Dubai in April.

Despite signing from the Italian club in 2004, the majority of his appearances came in the last two seasons as he seemed to overcome the complaints that blighted the start of his Villa Park career.

He was an ever-present in the Villa line-up last term, winning the fans' player-of-the-season award, and in his absence they have slumped from third to a distant fifth in the top flight this season.

O'Neill's own playing days were ended by a similar injury and he has sympathy for the difficult decision Laursen faced.

"It's soul-searching, it's heart-wrenching. Even when you reach the ripe old age of 30, 31 you still always think you are going to play. In your mind you are still 19, but then suddenly it is all taken away from you," he said.

"It is hard to come to terms with, certainly immediately. It took me about eight years."



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see also
O'Neill gloomy on Laursen future
24 Apr 09 |  Aston Villa
Laursen comeback delayed further
14 Apr 09 |  Aston Villa
Laursen comeback may be delayed
11 Mar 09 |  Aston Villa
Laursen set for return at Man Utd
03 Mar 09 |  Aston Villa
Laursen quits international scene
29 Jan 09 |  Aston Villa
Laursen facing two-month lay-off
23 Jan 09 |  Aston Villa
Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom
10 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Milan sign Laursen
31 Jul 01 |  Europe


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