Football: Knee injury forces early retirement for Barrett

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THE SHEFFIELD Wednesday defender Earl Barrett has been forced to retire from playing due to a serious knee injury, after receiving advice from three specialists.

Barrett has finally had to hang up his boots after damaging his left knee in a 4-0 defeat at Middlesbrough more than a year ago, drawing an end to a 15-year career.

After starting out at Manchester City, Barrett made his name with Oldham Athletic, and had spells in the Premiership with Aston Villa and Everton, before the then-Wednesday manager, Ron Atkinson, took him to Hillsborough in January 1998.

The 32-year-old managed just 15 appearances for Wednesday before suffering the injury. He had suffered problems to his right knee in previous seasons.

After being told by the Wednesday physio, Dave Galley, and two independent specialists to retire, Barrett said: "I came on as a sub against Boro and twisted my left knee. I felt it straight away.

"A chunk has gone from the articular cartilage and it has just not healed. I went through the process of rehabilitation but broke down, had a complete stop and started again, but it just didn't work out.

"I was told to be under no illusions that I was ever going to recover enough to continue playing football, and when three qualified people tell you your career is finished, you have to listen. Obviously I'm disappointed. I've played football for the last 16 years and I was thoroughly enjoying life at Sheffield Wednesday. The club has an impressive set-up and I wish them every success for the future."

The current Wednesday manager, Danny Wilson, added: "It's always sad to see a player's career finished through injury. Earl enjoyed his football and played well for Sheffield Wednesday. We all wish him well for the future."

Middlesbrough have learnt that three more of their most experienced players could be out of action for up to a month. Their manager, Bryan Robson, is already without Paul Ince, Curtis Fleming and Gary Pallister, but now the German international Christian Ziege, defender Colin Cooper and Paul Gascoigne have joined the list of long-term absentees.

Ziege's problem in particular came as a shock to the club after he was allowed to return to Germany to pick up his wife for Christmas. While out of the country, he went to see a specialist about a knee injury he picked up during the 2-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday - and ended up in plaster.

Ziege was found to have suffered ligament damage and while club officials are awaiting his return to assess the extent of the problem, he could be out for up to four weeks.

Cooper has been struggling with a knee problem for several weeks and has now undergone surgery on his cartilage, a move which will sideline him for a further month.

Gascoigne had an operation on Monday to flush out the knee which has been troubling him for much of the season, but he too will be missing for some time.

Tony Grant is teaming up with Joe Royle at Manchester City in a pounds 450,000 deal. The Everton midfielder is heading to Maine Road for talks after a fee was finally agreed between the clubs yesterday.

Grant made his debut under Royle during his management at Goodison and will rejoin his mentor with the chance to help their promotion push and FA Cup bid.

Because Grant did not appear for Everton in either of their third-round games with Exeter City he is eligible for City's fourth-round tie with Leeds United.