St Johnstone club captain Dave Mackay has announced his retirement, the Perth club has confirmed.
The 35-year-old defender has been battling with a hip problem since the summer of 2014 and has undergone two operations in a bid to rectify the issue.
Despite improvement Mackay, who joined the McDiarmid Park club from Livingston in 2009, does not believe he can reach the level of fitness needed for continued first team football.
Speaking to the Saints website, he said: “I’ve been aware of this issue for the past couple of years and although the first operation brought about a level of improvement that enabled me to get back playing and feeling fine, there was a gradual deterioration again over a period of time to the extent that I was unable to train.
“A second operation followed which again helped but not to the extent that I feel that I can get back to the fitness levels needed for fulltime football.
“The decision hasn’t been an easy one but I’ve had to take into consideration that I don’t want to do irreversible damage that affects me away from football.
“I’m only 35 and have a lot of years ahead of me that I don’t want to be affected.
“I’ve probably known in my own mind that this decision had to be made and I’m happy that I’ve given myself every chance to get back playing but it’s not to be.”
Mackay, who helped Saints lift the William Hill Scottish Cup for the first time in 2014, has started to put his A Licence coaching badge to good effect by providing additional assistance with the club’s Under-20s, with discussions ongoing about possible other roles.
He said: “I’ll obviously miss playing but my decision opens up plenty of other opportunities for me both short and long term and I’m thoroughly enjoying my involvement with the Under-20s just now.
“The club has done everything it could have to help in my recovery and I thank them for that and I thank the fans for their support over the past seven years and assure them I’ll be around the club for some time yet.”
Manager Tommy Wright claimed Mackay is close to being irreplaceable.
He said: “We’ve been aware of this possible outcome for a few weeks now and it’s disappointing news for Dave and the club but ultimately he is still a young man and it’s the best decision for him and that’s all that matters.
“I could go on all day about what Dave has done for Saints but that is well documented in the club history books.
“The simple truth is that I’m losing a great player and my captain.
“Very few players can be described as irreplaceable but Dave comes close.
“He has recently been helping out with the Under-20s and I know the chairman (Steve Brown) is speaking with him regarding continued involvement at the club.
“He’ll be missed in the dressing room with his leadership qualities and dry sense of humour and on behalf of myself, my staff and the players we wish him every success in the future.”
Midfielder Chris Millar paid tribute to Mackay, saying: “Dave has been an amazing player for St Johnstone. An amazing servant to the club. It is gutting.
“He is a mate, a team-mate and when you see someone who has worked really hard to get back to play and see that it has not worked out, I feel for him.
“On reflection, his career in general, he has been a great player. One of the best I have played with and it is sad to see him retire.
“He had a great career and he will go down in St Johnstone history as the first captain to lift a major national trophy.
“He has been key to the success we have had.
“For all he has done for the club and all the success that we have had in that period he has been captain, he will go down as a legend at the club.
“When he was at his peak before his injury he was one of the best right-backs in the country. I am not just saying that because he is my friend and played with me.
“Week-in, week-out he was so consistent, always a seven/eight out of 10 player and it is just sad.”