ILLNESS FORCES JOHN PIERCY TO RETIRE FROM FOOTBALL

JOHN PIERCY, Eastbourne's first Premiership footballer, has been forced into retirement at the age of 25.

The former Tottenham star told Brighton and Hove Albion manager Mark McGhee of his decision on Monday.

Piercy has been battling against the debilitating illness of colitis and had a spell in hospital three months ago.

After negotiating a year's contract with Albion in the summer, on the eve of his wedding, Piercy has made only a couple of reserve team appearances this season before coming on as sub for the first team 10 days ago.

He made his first Championship start of the season against Crewe on Saturday, but was substituted early in the second half.

It was after that game he came to his final decision to give up the game.

He told me this week, 'It was not a sudden decision; it had been in my mind for two or three months since my spell in hospital.

'The illness I have is largely one of fatigue and I have not felt strong enough to compete at the level that I have in the past.

'I made certain promises to the manager about maintaining fitness levels and I have been unable to keep them.

'The manager has been very good to me and showed his emotions when I told him of my decision.

'That meant a lot to me; he has been very good to me and very supportive.'

There is no known cure for colitis and Piercy revealed that he will be taking six pills a day for the rest of his life just to keep it under control.

'I know I have to live with it. The doctor told me that only five per cent of people suffering from the illness end up in hospital and I was one of them.

'I suppose I have had the symptoms since I was 18 or 19 and used to complain about feeling really tired when all the other lads seemed so fit.

'People think it's an easy life being a professional footballer and finishing training at 12.30am, but they do not realise the physical exertions that your body is put under.'

Piercy has no firm plans for the future, but hopes to see more of his favourite team Arsenal in action.

He has not ruled out going into coaching and possibly getting involved in youth football.

Would he ever consider playing again at a lower level?

'You never say never. But first I am going to get Christmas over with, rest up a bit and just hope to get myself feeling a bit stronger,' he said.

He was due to meet the Brighton players yesterday to say his goodbyes.

'Most of them are my friends, so I will be be keeping in touch.'

The local soccer community has been at one in expressing sympathy to Piercy this week.

They have included Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson who said, 'I believe John would have gone on to achieve great things in the world of football.'