MX23RW : Thursday, February 21 22:57:36

Benitez 'deeply saddened' by Stephen Darby's retirement

Defender Darby was given his Liverpool debut by Benitez in 2008.

Rafael Benitez has paid tribute to Stephen Darby after the defender was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The Bolton full-back announced his retirement on Tuesday at the age of 29.

Former Liverpool manager Benitez gave Darby his debut in a 1-1 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid in 2008.

He made seven appearances for the Reds before joining Bradford in 2012.

Newcastle boss Benitez wrote on Twitter: "I was proud to give Stephen Darby his Liverpool debut and now I am deeply saddened to learn of his retirement. Stephen is a special person and he has my total support. He will never walk alone."

MND is a degenerative condition that affects how nerves in the brain and spinal cord function and there is not current cure.

Darby was captain of Liverpool's FA Youth Cup-winning side in 2006 when they beat a Manchester City team which included Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge.

He made his full Liverpool debut against Fiorentina in 2009 before spending five years at Bradford, joining Bolton in 2017.

Darby, who is married to England Women's captain Steph Houghton, made five appearances for the Trotters but has not played since December last year.

Bolton boss Phil Parkinson, who also managed him at Bradford, told the Bolton News: "It is very typical of Stephen that he came in to speak with the lads and be upfront with it all, because he doesn't want them to think they cannot talk to him about his illness.

"In my time in football, he is one of the very best characters I have come across.

"He met with the specialist on Wednesday and was perhaps expecting the news that he would have to retire, but not this.

"He wanted to tell family and friends over the weekend but then get it out in the media today because people were asking questions about why he wasn't training.

"We can only offer our support. I have talked to him about keeping him involved, coming into the training ground, and he's keen to do that because there is a lot he can offer us. He can help us in many areas."


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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City27212474205465
2Liverpool26205159154465
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs26200654252960
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd26156552351751
5Arsenal26155653371650
6Chelsea26155645291650
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2611693433139
8Watford2610793434037
9Everton2796123639-333
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2696113239-733
11Bournemouth26103133747-1033
12Leicester CityLeicester2695123134-332
13Crystal Palace2676132734-727
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2676132839-1127
15Burnley2676132947-1827
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2667132234-1225
17Cardiff CityCardiff2674152447-2325
18Southampton2659122844-1624
19Fulham2645172558-3317
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2625191448-3411

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