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Wednesday 10 Apr 2024
Dallas retires from professional football

Northern Ireland and Leeds United midfielder Stuart Dallas has announced his playing days are over.

His retirement from professional football follows a two-year battle to overcome an injury sustained while playing for Leeds in the Premier League against Manchester City.

Dallas announced his retirement via an open letter to Northern Ireland fans and Leeds United fans.

In the letter he says that despite the best efforts of the Leeds medical team and surgeons, his knee suffered “irreparable damage” in April 2022.

He points out: “I will not be returning to play professional football. I am, of course, devastated by this news.

“As a young boy growing up in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, all I ever wanted was to play professional football and I will be eternally grateful that for me that dream came true.

“I am incredibly grateful to so many people who have helped me over the years, not only to make the most of my career, but who enabled me to do so with a smile on my face.”

He thanks his wife Junéve, his family, close friends and team-mates for their support down the years, and there’s special praise for former Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa and Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill for believing in him.

And Northern Ireland fans receive a special mention, too. “Playing in front of the Green and White Army at Windsor Park, and also having the opportunity to do so in a major championship at Euro 2016, was unforgettable. You really are amazing and it has been such an honour,” he says.

Dallas played for his country on 62 occasions, scoring three goals. He made 444 appearances in senior club football, scoring 68 times.

The Cookstown man was a senior Northern Ireland international for well over a decade and was a key member of the Northern Ireland team who reached the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2016 in France.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill said: “Stuart’s distinguished career is the best example any young player, particularly those playing in the Irish League, should take inspiration from.

”As a coach and manager you constantly ask your players to make the most of the talents they have been given, with hard work and dedication. There have been few better examples of that than Stuart.

“His consistent high level of performance in the Premier League and on the international stage will ensure his legacy with Leeds United and Northern Ireland fans.

“I will miss him wearing the green shirt but whatever he decides to do next he will bring that spirit with him and no doubt continue to make a positive impact on the game.”

Dallas started his career as a winger before eventually operating at full back, wing back or in central midfield for club and country. He was known for his versatility.

The 32-year-old netted 28 goals in 266 appearances for Leeds United in both the Premier League and EFL Championship after joining the Elland Road club for a fee of £1.3 million from Brentford in August 2015.

Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood said: “Whilst it would be easy to lament a career cut short, I would much rather focus on Stuart's time as an international.

“After making his debut in 2011 he always wore the shirt with pride and went on to become one of the Kings of Lyon in 2016. His willingness and endeavour made him a manager's dream as a utility player who simply performed well in any role.

“A personal favourite memory is his stoppage-time goal which gave us a 1-0 win away to Azerbaijan in a classic smash and grab game (FIFA World Cup qualifier in June 2017).”

Dallas began his playing career in Northern Ireland with Coagh United before moving into senior football and spending two seasons with Crusaders where he scored 27 goals in 93 games before earning a move to Brentford in July 2012.

In his three-year spell at Griffin Park he made 75 appearances, finding the net 10 times, and he also scored three goals in a dozen matches during a brief loan spell with Northampton Town.

You can read Stuart’s letter in full via the link below.