Clem retires..

Last updated : 06 January 2010 By Paul Lagan

Former Chelsea star Neil Clement has being forced to retire from football due to injury.

Clem, is the brother of Paul Clement, one of Chelsea's assiatant first-team coaches.

West Brom's left-sided defender has reluctantly admitted defeat in his long-running battle to recover from a right knee injury, which he suffered during pre-season some 17 months ago.

Clement, under the guidance of the club's medical staff, has left no stone unturned in his quest to regain full fitness.

He has undergone two knee operations, sought treatment from top specialists as far afield as Germany and spent countless hours in the gym.

With the injury still not fully healed, the 31-year-old made his last throw of the dice to resurrect his career by having a course of pioneering platelet injections in the joint.

However, Clement's consultant has confirmed to him the treatment has not worked and, having explored all available avenues, he has strongly advised him to hang up his boots.

The Reading-born player says he is devastated his playing career is over and claims the news hasn't properly sunk in yet.

"I knew I was struggling because I'd been out for so long but when I actually heard the consultant say those words, it was still a really bitter pill to swallow," said Clement.

"Nothing can prepare you for it. Being told your career is over is the one thing no player wants to hear.

"However, I can take real comfort from the fact I have tried absolutely everything to get back playing again.

"In years to come, it would have been an awful thing to look back and think 'why didn't I try this or that'?

"I have no regrets because, in my heart of hearts, I know I couldn't have done anymore.

"The hardest thing to take is that, when I got back into the team at the end of the 2007/08 season, I felt I was playing better than ever and coming into my prime - both physically and mentally.

"So to get this injury the following pre-season - especially on the eve of our return to the Premier League - was a devastating blow."

Clement is now weighing up his options but says he definitely wants to stay in football.

The Baggies have offered him the chance to work within their Academy and sports science departments for the remainder of the season to help him decide his next career move - and he has jumped at the chance.

Clement added: "I'm delighted that the chairman, Dan Ashworth and Roberto Di Matteo still feel I have a lot to offer the club - as do I.

"It's going to take me some time to get over the shock of being told my playing days are over but life will go on and I've got a new challenge to look forward to.

"West Bromwich Albion have been part and parcel of my life for the past 10 years and I want to say a massive thank you to everyone at the club and, of course, the fans for all their support over the past decade."

Clem's' eventful ten-year spell with the Baggies began with a loan move from Chelsea on transfer deadline day in March 2000.

Then only 21, he played a key role in helping Albion avoid relegation to the old Division Two, which earned him a permanent £100,000 move in the summer.

Clement kicked off his first full season at the club as a left-sided centre-half in a back three and proved an instant hit, winning the club's Player-of-the-Year Award as the Baggies lost in the play-off semi-finals.

He moved to left wing-back during 2001/02 and helped Albion end their 16-year top-flight exile by winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time.

Clement's consistent performances and eye for goal from set-plays also earned him a place in the Division One PFA XI.

After figuring regularly during Albion's relegation the following term, he suffered the first real setback of his Baggies career in 2003/04 when he lost his position as first-choice left-back to new recruit Paul Robinson.

However, Clement underlined his versatility that season by serving in midfield, at centre-half and even at centre-forward on occasion as Albion immediately won promotion back to the top flight.

He played a key role in Albion's Great Escape during 2004/05 as the Baggies became the first team bottom of the Premier League at Christmas to avoid the drop.

Clement was appointed vice-captain during 2005/06 and skippered the side on several occasions in the absence of Kevin Campbell, as Albion returned to the Championship.

Unfortunately, Clement's next two seasons were hampered by a left knee problem - but he still enjoyed a glorious end to 2007/08.

After returning from a month's loan at Hull, he brought stability to the backline in a seven-match unbeaten league run which culminated in him clinching a hat-trick of promotions.

Clement also deservedly won a place in the club's starting XI for their narrow FA Cup semi-final defeat by Portsmouth at Wembley.

His latest knee injury, this time in his other leg, struck the following August and he has been sidelined ever since.

Fittingly, his last competitive game for the club was at QPR in May 2008 - the day Albion clinched their first league title for 88 years thanks to a 2-0 win.

In total, Clement has made exactly 300 appearances for Albion, scoring 26 goals.

He made three appearances for his only other permanent club, Chelsea, who he joined as a schoolboy.

While at Stamford Bridge, he enjoyed three loan spells at Reading (11 appearances, one goal), Preston (four appearances) and Brentford (eight appearances).

In total, Clement made 326 career appearances, scoring 27 times.

Thanks to Jenna Hadley At WBA

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