Saturday looks set to be an emotional day for Stockport County star Karl Ledsham as he prepares to hang up his boots at the end of the home clash with Gloucester City.
28-year-old Karl has been offered an opportunity to begin a coaching career in America and, with his body suffering from a succession of injuries, he has made the difficult decision to call time on his playing career.
Karl said: “It’s disappointing but it’s something I’ve thought long and hard about. I’ve been offered a coaching job over in New Jersey and it’s a good opportunity. I’ve had some injuries including two operations on my groin and it’s just not easing up. I’ve been playing at 70% for the past two years and this is something that’s been on my mind for a long time, so I think it’s time to hang up my boots and go on a new adventure coaching.
“I went to college in America so I’ve got a lot of friends over there and the offer has been on the table for about three years! I’ll be working with a good friend of mine who has a company called Advanced Total Soccer Coaching, and he’s offered me a position there as his right-hand man and it’s something that I’ve had to take at this stage. If I carry on playing I might only have two more years anyway, so it’s time to look to the future.
“I went to university in Maryland for three years and it was great, some of the best years of my life, but I always wanted to come back and play football over here and I can’t complain about the clubs I’ve played for, with Stockport County obviously the biggest in my eyes. It’s been great to represent this club, I was here when I was 16, so it’s been great to be back.”
The 6’3 midfielder was Neil Young’s first signing when he took over as manager last summer, but he has gone on to play a pivotal role in County’s recent revival under James Gannon. He joined the Hatters from Barrow in the summer after clinching the Conference North title with the Bluebirds. Karl originally came through the ranks as a junior at Liverpool before moving to County at the age of 14, but was released two years later.
Huyton-born Karl moved to the USA to join the college circuit with Maryland before returning to the UK, playing for Skelmersdale and then Southport where he enjoyed a successful spell, bagging 24 goals in 140 league games.
He leaves Edgeley Park with a ringing endorsement from manager James Gannon, who said: “I have always been a big fan of Karl. Not just his qualities as an athlete and player, but his honesty and commitment to the team game. Since I have come back to the club he has been one of our key players and his role in our new look midfield has been integral to our great run of form.
“We are disappointed to lose him at this stage of the season and not to have him available for future seasons. But any disappointment is tempered by the great opportunity he has to enjoy life and coaching in America. I’m sure he will be a great success over there, so I’d like to publicly thank him for his work for us this season and offer him the very best wishes for the future.”
Karl added: “It’s been a very difficult decision to stop playing but it’s been on my mind for a couple of years and I’ve tried to play through it – it’s devastating for me because the only thing I want to do is play football.
“I’ve spoken to the club and they’ve given me their full backing, it was very difficult but it’s just something I cannot turn down. I was a bit worried about speaking to the club because I wasn’t sure how they would react but I couldn’t have asked for any more, everyone has been brilliant. I spoke to Jim myself last night and he’s wished me every bit of luck and told me that if it doesn’t work out, there’s a place here for me and that’s great to hear.
“I’ve had some great years and great memories at Southport, I had a great year last season winning the league at Barrow and this has been a great year for me, too, in terms of the lads I’ve met and the fans I’ve played in front of – this is a massive club and I do think they will go on and win the league next year under Jim, 100%, so it’s upsetting not be a part of that but I’ll be fully behind the lads and following them on Twitter and watching all the videos online, so I wish County all the best and I’m fully confident they’ll give the fans what they want next season.
“This Saturday will be emotional, I’ve got all my mates coming and they’re all excited for the game, I just hope that we can go and win it and I can play my part – it’s a privilege to play in front of these fans who turn up every week but it is ultimately going to be a sad day.”