Preston’s 33 Neil Mellor shocked the world of football with news that he had played his last game as a professional footballer, and was retiring due to injury.
The former Liverpool hit-man’s contract was due to run out at Deepdale at the end of the 2011/2012 campaign and was widely linked with a move to MK Dons, whose manager, Karl Robinson, had worked with Mellor during the pairs spell’s at Liverpool.
Ironically, it was actually against the MK Dons in December where Mells picked up what turned out to be a career ending injury.
Mellor has been no stranger to knee problems having being plagued with niggling injuries ever since his Liverpool days.
The injury that has primarily restricted Mellor to just 242 appearances in a 10 year career is inflammation of the knee tendons.
In all, Mellor has undergone six operations, three on each leg, and even had problems jumping at the age of 20 and needed injections needed to come through 90 minutes.
Operations such as micro-fracturingin, a surgical repair technique that works by creating tiny fractures in the underlying bone causing new cartilage to develop, eased the symptoms but never completely solved the problems.
Speculation amongst Preston supporters stretched as far as a possible new contract for the Sheffield-born striker who had expressed his dismay at not having the opportunity to show his worth to the Deepdale faithful this term.
Thusly, few would have expected such an announcement, including many of his former teammates.
Tributes poured in for the striker who had spells at Liverpool, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End.
Robbie Fowler: “Sad news about Neil Mellor having to retire through injury, wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Good luck in whatever you decide to do”.
Clinton Morrison: “Gutted to hear that Neil Mellor had to retire. Good friend a very good striker. He will be missed in the game”.
Dean Ashton: “Sad news for Neil Mellor having to retire at 29. I know how he feels and it’s devastating. Wishing him all the best”.
Sean St Ledger: “I’m so sorry to hear Neil Mellor’s news, absolutely stunned. Best side foot finisher I think I’ve ever seen. Manager or pundit in the making”.
Richard Chaplow: “Enjoyed every second playing Mellor, picking up some amazing memories along the way. Top player, top bloke. Gutted for him”.
Iain Hume: “Absolutely gutted that Neil Mellor has called it a day. One of the best strikers and lads I’ve had privilege to play with. Top player”.
Paul Gallagher: “Gutted to hear the news that Neil Mellor has retired, had the pleasure of playing alongside him and is one of the best finishers I have ever seen”.
Darren Carter: “Devastated for one of the best professionals I’ve had the pleasure of playing alongside”.
Mellor was one of Paul Simpson’s first signings when the former Carlisle boss took over at Deepdale in 2006.
Mells went on to make 151 appearances for the Lilywhites, his first came at Selhurst Park as an 87th minute substitute in a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on 27th January 2007 in the FA Cup.
His first start, however, was at Deepdale on 5th March 2007 in a 3-1 win over Southampton.
Incidentally, it was Mellor opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time to cap his first start in a white shirt with his first goal.
His last game was, of course , a 10 minute cameo against Bury in March 2012 whilst his last goal for North End was during the 1-0 win away at Hartlepool United.
Preston North End Mad would like to wish Mellor all the best for the future.