Former Brentford defender Dean Wells has been forced into retirement following a knee injury suffered playing for Boreham Wood.
Wells came through the ranks at Brentford but managed just one appearance, a 3-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in October 2003, before being released by Martin Allen at the end of that season.
He then dropped into non-league football, joining Alan Devonshire’s Hampton & Richmond Borough, helping them to the 2007 Isthmian League title and so nearly into the Conference National, losing the Conference South play-off final to Eastbourne Borough the following year and Hayes & Yeading the year after.
Following a short spell out of the game, Wells briefly signed for Hampton’s former rivals Staines Town before linking up with Devonshire once more at Braintree Town, where his performances for the Conference Premier minnows started to attract attention of Football League clubs again.
Wells, who remained a lifelong Bees fans after leaving the club, finally got his chance back in the pro game after signing for League Two Stevenage in the summer of 2014 – more than a decade after his last Football League game.
He took his second chance with both hands, making just shy of 100 appearances for the Hertfordshire side before being released last summer and dropping back into the National League with Boreham Wood.
However, after just 18 appearances for his new club, and becoming a fans’ favourite, Wells has hung up his boots after a coming together in an FA Trophy replay against Dartford with an opponent ended with an anterior cruciate ligament tear which now requires surgery.
Wood Chairman Danny Hunter offered to pay for the operation and look after the player during what would be a year-long rehabilitation programme.
However, after a consultation with the club’s medical staff and the operating consultant, the defender has, as he nears his 33rd birthday, decided against having the operation.
Hunter told Wood’s website: “I’m absolutely gutted. It’s been a hugely difficult time for Dean, and he was playing so well, he was settled, he was very much one of our big players and he was a leader. For me, the team was always so much better with him in it.
“Unfortunately, I was told the bad news prior to Christmas in terms of his injury, but I asked the medical staff and Luke to say nothing to ensure that Dean could enjoy his Christmas and new year, with his family and friends, in blissful ignorance of what I knew we were going to have to tell him.
“Unfortunately, in these moments, someone has to sit down with a player and spell out their options, and in Dean’s case that was myself, with both Luke and Megan Reid in attendance. Trust me when I say, the medical cost didn’t come into it, whatever Dean needed, whatever he wanted, he would of gotten here, as I have a duty of care to our players.
“Dean simply listened, went off and discussed his options with Megan Reid, the consultant, his family and no doubt battled with his conscience. After that, he simply felt as he neared 33, and after having the op – that he would then of had a year’s rehab to overcome. Even after all that, there was no certainty that he would get back to the level he’s been used too.
“As such, he made a tough decision based on his family and his future and I applaud him for that. Trust me when I say, he’ll be sorely missed by me, Luke, my staff, the dressing room and the fans.
"He is a man’s man and he says it as it is. I’m currently arranging a leaving dinner in his honour, but we’ll really struggle to replace him both as a player and as a man.”