Ashton forced to retire

West Ham United regret to announce that Dean Ashton has been forced to retire from professional football through injury.

Following independent medical advice, the 26-year-old England striker has reluctantly brought an end to his career due to a long-term ankle problem initially suffered in training with the national team in August 2006.

Despite undergoing surgical procedures and intensive rehabilitation, Ashton has been left frustrated in his considerable and sustained efforts to return to full fitness. With warnings about his long-term mobility, he has been left with no option but to retire.

The club has been meeting with Ashton and his representatives regularly in recent weeks with the main concern being his long-term future.

West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said: "This is a sad day and our thoughts are with Dean. 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."

Prior to arriving at West Ham, the Swindon-born player had come through the ranks at another famous footballing Academy at Crewe Alexandra, making his debut as a 17-year-old in October 2000.

After scoring 74 goals in 177 games, Ashton moved to then Premier League side Norwich City in January 2005, scoring 18 times in 46 matches for the Canaries. Ashton joined the Hammers from Norwich on 22 January 2006 for a then club-record £7.25m fee.

The forward's first half-season at the Boleyn Ground was hugely promising, with the 22-year-old bagging six goals in 16 league and cup appearances, including two in an FA Cup quarter-final win over Manchester City that paved the Hammers way to the Millennium Stadium.

In the final itself, Ashton was in form again, scoring once in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool before the Reds triumphed in a penalty shoot-out.

After narrowly missing out on a place in Sven-Goran Eriksson's 2006 FIFA World Cup squad, Ashton was named in new England manager Steve McClaren's first squad for a friendly against Greece at Old Trafford in August 2006.

As Ashton, a former Under-21 international, prepared for his senior England debut, disaster struck when he suffered a badly broken ankle in training.

The injury caused the striker to miss the whole 2006/07 season and, although he returned to make 35 appearances and score eleven goals in 2007/08 and make his England debut in Trinidad and Tobago on 1 June 2008, the pain and discomfort in Ashton's ankle caused by the injury, never completely went away.

After beginning 2008/09 with a prolific pre-season and two goals in the opening-day victory over Wigan Athletic, Ashton was again forced to the sidelines just four matches into the new Barclays Premier League campaign on 15 September 2008. Again, it was his troublesome ankle that caused his absence and, finally and unfortunately, his retirement.