Gutted McBride is forced to call it a day
Stephen McBride has spoken of his disappointment after a serious knee injury brought a cruel end to his career at the age of 34.
One of the Irish League's unsung heroes, the left-back who played more than 400 games for Crusaders before moving to Ballymena United in 2013, has now accepted his playing days are over.
A cartilage tear in his left knee required surgery but McBride has suffered considerable pain and surgeons have told him he would be risking serious long-term damage if he soldiered on.
"After the operation I thought I would be back in six weeks but nearly a year later I can't walk and am limping around," said McBride.
"I'll never play football again and it's something I will come to terms with.
"I always thought I would keep playing for as long as I could, even if it wasn't at Premiership level. There's my old team-mate Davy Rainey playing for H&W Welders at the age of 41, and their manager Gary Smyth spoke to me about joining them, but although I wish I could play on because I love the game, it's impossible. I do miss football but I just couldn't risk the permanent damage."
Setanta Cup and Irish Cup glory during a memorable decade with the Crues were two big highlights but he also enjoyed County Antrim Shield success with United in 2016.
"It's a pity because I only played about 15 games for David (Jeffrey) and it's disappointing I couldn't make it many more," added McBride. "I was lucky to play over 400 times for Crusaders and United were great with me. I've won trophies and will cherish those memories."