Kettering Town captain Luke announces his retirement from playing

The Poppies defender has hung up his boots after suffering problems with his vision this season

Luke Graham, pictured after scoring in Kettering Town's 2-0 win at Kidderminster Harriers this season, has announced his retirement from playing. Picture by Peter Short
Luke Graham, pictured after scoring in Kettering Town's 2-0 win at Kidderminster Harriers this season, has announced his retirement from playing. Picture by Peter Short

Kettering Town captain Luke Graham has announced his retirement from playing football.

The 34-year-old confirmed his decision to hang up his boost this week due to health reasons.

Graham’s final appearance for the Poppies was in the 0-0 draw with AFC Telford United at Latimer Park earlier this month when he was withdrawn early in the game due to problems with his vision.

The issue has now led him to retirement from playing, although he will continue his role as the club’s academy director.

The defender made 185 appearances over three spells with Kettering, scoring eight goals including one in the fine 2-0 win at Kidderminster Harriers this season.

Graham, who started his career at Northampton Town, also played for the likes of King’s Lynn Town, Brackley Town, Forest Green Rovers, Mansfield Town, Billericay Town, York City, Hereford and Alfreton Town.

He started this season as captain at the Poppies but has made the decision to put his health first.

“After reflecting at home with my beautiful family over the past week, I have decided to make the difficult decision and hang my boots up,” Graham said.

“Playing football has become a bigger risk for my health over the past few weeks and hopefully the results of ongoing assessments will mean I can lead a normal healthy life away from the pitch.

“I would like to thank my mum, dad and brother for, without their support, I wouldn’t have become a professional footballer and enjoyed a good living for 12 years.

“There are so many people in football I will thank personally but a real thanks to Colin Calderwood for offering me my first professional contract when I was 17 and to the late Justin Edinburgh (Billericay) and Kevin Wilson (Kettering) who gave me platforms to prove myself week in week out at such a young age at National League level.

“If you would have offered me the chance at this stage of my career to finish at Kettering Town as captain and still playing every week at this level I would have taken it.

“I am very grateful to Paul Cox and his management team for getting me back to match fitness.

“I would have retired earlier if he didn’t want me involved as being honest I had no desire to play below national league level or play for another club in the county.

“As for the future, clearly I have an eye on developing young players within our academy as well as in the County and I am sure we will produce our own and find some more over the coming years.”

Boss Cox paid tribute to Graham following the announcement and reiterated his belief that there are some things that are bigger than football.

“I spoke to Luke a number of times and I think we both agreed that his health is more important than football,” the Poppies boss added.

“Every player, especially a centre-half, has that inner warrior in them and sometimes you want to go that extra round.

“But you have to be realistic in this game and your health is more important than anything.

“Luke has been honest with me, he has had to make his own decision and it’s a sad scenario that we have lost him.

“But he has a wife and kids and wider family and there are things that are bigger than football.

“He will still be around the ground and hopefully the boys will give him a good send-off just after Christmas.

“Everyone should remember him for the positive performances he put in for the club and he certainly never let me down when he played for me.”