Gareth McAuley: Northern Ireland defender retires from football
"Green shirt of Northern Ireland filled me with bursting pride," McAuley says in emotional statement which calls time on his career
By Liam Grace
Last Updated: 30/09/19 9:25am
Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley has retired from football at the age of 39.
The former West Brom and Rangers man amassed 203 Premier League appearances and earned 80 caps for his country, scoring in Northern Ireland's first-ever win at the European Championship finals in 2016.
That goal was Northern Ireland's first at a major tournament in 30 years and saw McAuley become the second-oldest scorer at the Euros, before netting an unfortunate own goal in the round-of-16 defeat to Wales.
McAuley, who was awarded an MBE earlier this year for his services to football in Northern Ireland, spent the last season of his career in Scotland with Rangers, making seven appearances.
Prior to joining West Brom in 2011, where he spent the majority of his career, McAuley also played in England with Lincoln, Leciester and Ipswich.
Born in Larne, he started his career domestically in Northern Ireland, spending the early years of his playing days at Linfield, Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders and Coleraine.
'Green shirt of Northern Ireland filled me with bursting pride'
In an emotional statement posted on Twitter, McAuley says that he will be "forever thankful" for the support he was given by Northern Ireland fans and paid tribute to all the clubs he played for.
"A lot of people have been asking me what my plans are since the summer so I thought it was time to publicly state I've decided to retire from playing," he said.
"I knew last season was going to be my 23rd and final year as a player and I know I'm hanging up my boots for the final time at the right time.
"From the second I first kicked a ball, it was always about the love of the game and a desire to win followed.
"I pride myself on getting everything possible out of my career and Im proud to have played with - and against - some of the best players in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland as well as representing my country for 14 years.
"I could never have imagined what my career would become when I played for Lisburn Youth as a boy. It's been a dream, a privilege and an honour to represent so many great clubs and work under managers and coaches who helped mould my career.
"After leaving Linfield and moving from Crusaders to Coleraine, the hope of playing at a higher level and then for my country was the ultimate goal but what followed is something I am extremely proud of.
"From Lincoln to Leicester City, to Ipswich and then West Bromwich Albion, I fulfilled my ambition of playing in the Premier League.
"I worked as hard in training everyday as I did on match day to make sure I got the most out of my playing career.
"The final move was also a very special moment; signing for Rangers, the club I supported as a boy. To pull on that blue shirt meant the world to me. But it was the green shirt of Northern Ireland which filled me with bursting pride.
"It wasn't easy for many years but when success came, it made it all the sweeter, not just for me, the player and the staff, but also the fans who have supported us through good times and bad.
"To play 80 times for my country and score nine goals, I enjoyed every second I wore the Northern Ireland shirt and will be forever thankful for the support I was given.
"Now I'm looking to spending time with my wife Fran, my son Bobby and daughter Alexis, and enjoying some of the things I've missed out on down the years."