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Rochdale hero Joe Thompson retires from professional football

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Saying goodbye

Rochdale midfielder Joe Thompson has announced that he is retiring from professional football.

The 29-year-old inspired thousands throughout his football career, having twice fought back from cancer to play football once again and cites his retirement to pushing ‘his body to the absolute limit’.

The iconic moment of Thompson’s career came back in May 2018 as he scored the goal which kept his side in League One on the final day of the season, completing a remarkable comeback into the first team.

It came less than six months after he made his second return from cancer back in December 2017.

Thompson began his professional career with Rochdale in 2006, remaining with the club until 2012 when he moved on to Tranmere Rovers. It was there where the midfielder was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma back in 2013, before then making a full recovery from the illness in 2014.

Short-term spells with Bury, Wrexham, Southport and Carlisle United all followed, before Thompson then rejoined Rochdale in the summer of 2016. Thompson was diagnosed with cancer once again in 2017, but incredibly made his return to the first team in the same year.

Joe Thomspon
Thompson was the Football League's Apprentice of the Year in 2007

Battling adversity

Thompson’s story is truly one of the most inspiring in English football, having fought back from many a setback in his personal life. He has since released a statement confirming and explaining his decision to retire at the age of 29.

"My decision to retire is one of the hardest I've ever made," he said.

"I have battled through some of life's hardest challenges and have managed to overcome them. However, I've pushed my body to the absolute limit.

"My mind has grown stronger but with the intense treatment my body has had to endure over the last six years it is no longer able to perform to the demands of the professional game."

Thompson will be present for Rochdale’s home game against Coventry City this weekend, where it is expected that the crowd at Spotland will all applaud in the 15th minute of the match - 15 being his squad number.

He has confirmed his plans to stay in the game going forward, believing that he can offer plenty to the next generation of footballers coming through the ranks, using his own experiences to help them in their development.

"I believe I have a duty to mentor to younger professionals in the game.

"I also feel my story has the power to help others in all walks of life to overcome their own adversities and empower them to fulfil their potential."


Understandably Thompson’s career is one that has touched many people, whether they be Rochdale supporters or not. His story is truly inspiring, with it being a fairytale conclusion at the end of last season as he scored the goal that saved the club from relegation to League Two.

Thompson seems content with his decision, having put his health before his career in this case. There have been plenty of tributes to have come in for Rochdale’s no. 15, who has firmly written his name into the club’s history with what he was able to accomplish at Spotland and across his career.