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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fairytale finish for Anderton

As a way to end your football career, Darren Anderton's final act before hanging up his boots was pure Roy of the Rovers.

Having announced that Bournemouth's game with fellow League Two strugglers Chester would be his final outing, the former England and Tottenham midfielder came off the substitutes' bench to inspire his side to a vital 1-0 victory.

After a goalless - and largely forgettable - first half, Anderton joined the action in the 56th minute and was soon helping the Cherries lay siege to the visitors' goal.

He had the crowd on their feet when he blasted a 35-yard free-kick wide - and then raised the roof by smashing home the only goal of the game with just two minutes remaining.

"The ball was spinning, but I hit it pretty sweet, and when the ball hit the back of the net, I did think 'what am I doing' [in retiring]," Anderton said.

"But I've made my decision, and it's just a wonderful way to finish it all off.

"I thought about hanging on until the end of the season, but at 36 it becomes harder - and rather than letting it drag on, and hating football two or three months down line, I wanted to finish while I still like it.

"It's one of those days you never think is going to happen, so you want it to be perfect, and it has been."

As well as being Anderton's curtain call, the game was also symbolic as it lifted Bournemouth to plus three points - having begun the season on minus 17 following their exit from administration.

"They're a great set of lads and I know they'll get out of trouble," Anderton said of his Cherries team-mates as he ended a two-and-a-half-season stay which also included his only career hat-trick - against Leyton Orient in February 2007.

"I don't live far away, and I've made some great friendships here, so I'm sure I'll be back to see them play, and I'm sure they'll be round my house without an invite, like they usually are!"

Asked about a possible comeback, he admitted: "I never say never.

"I might go away and get bored, but at the moment I'd say not."

Chester boss Mark Wright, who played alongside Anderton for England as his own international career drew to a close, described the goal as a "worldie".

But the former Liverpool skipper also feels the days of ex-England stars finishing their careers in the lower divisions may be coming to an end.

"Fair play to Darren - he's come down here to play for Bournemouth, and a lot of people would find it hard," Wright said.

"But with the money that's in the game at the top end now, can you see too many of them wanting to come and play down here?

"I don't think it's going to happen, as they don't need it.

"Even kids who haven't produced anything at a Premier League club are on £20,000 a week.

"I'm not so sure they want it as much as the older boys do, like Darren - and I think Bournemouth will miss him."

Anderton now hangs up his boots just one short of 600 games - having made 569 club appearances for Portsmouth, Spurs, Birmingham, Wolves and Bournemouth, as well as winning 30 England caps.

And the man cruelly dubbed "Sicknote" is the last of England's starting line-up from the 1996 European Championship semi-final against Germany to finish playing.

He added: "I never thought I would drop down the leagues, but I'm so pleased that I did.

"I've done everything I would have wanted to in terms of international football and playing at the highest level.

"But the main reason why I came here was location - and coming here has been better than I could have imagined."

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