After 425 first team appearances, including 75 in the top-flight, Michael Kightly has announced his retirement from professional football.
The winger has agreed with the Club to terminate his contract at Southend United.
It means Kightly started and ended his career at Blues, playing 88 times in two separate spells.
He re-joined in 2017 and scored on his debut against Blackburn Rovers in a 2-1 win.
And he says he’s proud at all he achieved throughout his 16-year career but says it’s the right decision to call time on his playing days.
"It’s been a great career but one that has been tough physically on my body, with a lot operations, and it’s been tough mentally as well, more so in the last couple of years,” he said.
"To be honest it wasn’t that difficult a decision to make [to retire]. I thought about it in the summer and then I came back to pre-season and thought the time was right for me.
"It’s frustrating when your legs can’t do what they used to do, and I probably could play on for another year, or a couple of years, but I don’t see the point to be honest.
"I was lucky enough to fulfil my dream of playing in the Premier League so I’m really proud at all that I achieved.
"I look back and would like to have made more appearances in the Premier League but like I say a few injuries prevented that.
"I’m proud and honoured to say that I’ve been able to follow my dream but it’s time for a new chapter. Although I’m scared about it, I’m looking forward to it at the same time.”
Talking about what’s next for him, he said: "I’ve tried to relax physically and mentally, played a bit of golf. I’m going to look into agency with a company that I’ve been with over the last 10 years or so to try and help and guide players from the things I went through.
"I say it quite a lot, but being a footballer is tough mentally and unless you’ve been a footballer you don’t understand it fully, so I’d like to think I understand it. I want to use my experience to help others and I’m looking forward to doing that.
"It is scary because all I’ve known is playing the game, but I feel like I do have a passion in helping others on and off the pitch.
"I'll be going to games and watching games and then just trying to build relationships with players and deal with them on a daily basis which I'm looking forward to.”
Kightly has achieved so much in the game, going from non-league football to playing in the Premier League. On his standout moments, the 33-year-old said: “Representing my country at U21 level, and then probably my first Premier League goal and the one I scored at Old Trafford. Those are the three standout moments that I’ll look back on in years to come.”
Kightly ended by saying thanks to the fans and everyone who has supported him throughout.
"I always thought when I left that I’d like to come back so I’m very grateful to the club and Ron and all the fans for having me back and I wish them all the success in the future.
"I would’ve liked it to have been a bit of a better ending with a promotion rather than avoiding relegation, but you can’t have it all.
"I wish the club all the success and hopefully they can achieve some great things.”
Everyone at Southend United would like to congratulate Michael on a fantastic career and wishes him the best of luck for the future.