Danny Carlton is brutal in his assessment of the state of his body.
“I don’t want to be in a wheelchair by the time I’m 40,” says Morecambe’s Wembley winning hero, who has announced his retirement from football at the age of just 30.
His 82nd minute goal that sealed the Shrimps’ 2-1 win over Exeter in May 2007 and the club’s first promotion to the Football League is one that no Morecambe fan will ever forget.
But the Leeds-born striker, who has made the resort his home, admits his career never reached those heights again with frustrating spells at first Carlisle and then Bury.
A serious cruciate ligament injury to his right knee in September 2012 when back at Morecambe then all but ended Carlton’s Football League career as he played out the 2013-2014 campaign, his last, in the Skrill Premier with Hyde and Chester.
“My health meant that I had to think with my heart and not my head,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to happen but I’ve been struggling since my cruciate injury.
“It’s been a long hard slog and I don’t think I ever really got back fit.
“I just feel like I’ve been playing on one leg at times and that’s not fair on any club paying your wages.
“I wanted to retire on better terms but that’s football.”
Carlton wanted to carry on after finding form on loan at struggling Chester but a post-season run set alarm bells ringing.
“After the season finished I felt great,” he said.
“I’d scored a few goals for Chester and was hoping they’d offer me something but it didn’t materialise.
“I had a couple of weeks off and went for an end of season run and got shooting pains in my knee.
“I spoke to (outgoing Morecambe club doctor) Dr Trevor Fleet and he told me my cruciate looked fine but something obviously wasn’t right in there.
“He said I might be able to play for a year of two more but I’d probably need another operation.
“I spoke to my family and I’ve got a little girl who’s coming up to the age of two who wants to be playing in the park.
“And I want to be able to run round with her. If I keep playing I’m only going to keep damaging my knee.”
A real family man, Carlton admits that aside from spending time with fiancé Natasha, who he is due to marry next year, and daughter Daisy, who turns two in July, he doesn’t know what’s next after the premature end to his career.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with my family,” he said.
“We bought a house in Morecambe when I signed for the third time (in the summer of 2011) and always said we wanted to stay here.
“It will be great to spend weekends together and not be travelling down to the likes of Barnet and Plymouth away, going on the Friday morning and coming back late Saturday.
“I did my level two (coaching) last year and I’ve spoken to a few people about doing some coaching and I’d like to stay in the game but it’s hard to say at the moment.
“I’ve lost a little bit of love for the game.
“I’ve been involved in it since the age of nine so it might be time for a break and I might try something completely different but I’ve not decided which route I’m going to go down.”
Football was very much the love of Carlton’s life when he wrote to Shrimps youth chief Dickie Danson as a 17-year-old.
And 13 years on the club legend says he is indebted to Danson, director Rod Taylor and kit man Les Dewhirst amongst others for helping him realise his dream of becoming a professional footballer at Christie Park.
“I wrote to Morecambe and got a reply from Dickie Danson,” said Carlton.
“I’m really grateful to him. I signed my first contract after six months in the academy.
“Rod’s always been amazing with me too. He’d invite me round for dinner and things like that when I first arrived.
“When you’re a young lad away from home you need a kind of surrogate family and that’s what it was like.
“Les was the same. My digs were costing me more than I was getting paid so I asked him if I could move in for a couple of weeks and six years later I was still there.
“He’s like my second dad.”
The bond that was created over three spells with the Shrimps means Carlton hopes to able to watch their Football League dream develop having been the one that made it a reality.
“Wembley will stay with me and my family for a long, long time,” he said.
“There were other real high points too. Signing my first contract at 17 and making my debut against Burscough.
“I’ve so many fond memories and it’ll be nice to go down and cheer them on. It’s a great club. Everyone wants them to progress but this is only a small town and they’re still establishing themselves as a league club.
“I’m sure there’ll be many more great days for Morecambe in the future and hopefully I’ll be there to watch.”