TORQUAY United defender Ryan Higgins has been forced to retire at the tender age of 23 after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition.
It has been a long process of tests and a difficult time for Ryan and his family, with the very sad news coming through last week.
Ryan arrived at Plainmoor from Southport in the summer, having won Player of the Season at Haig Avenue. He was a youngster at Everton and then turned professional for Birmingham City, with Telford United and Chester also among his former clubs.
“My sister was rushed to hospital with a heart condition back in November,” said Ryan. “I was actually at training here in Torquay when I received a call from my family to say my sister had been taken into hospital. I had a few weeks away with my family in what was a very worrying time for all of us.
“I did briefly return to football but, after further investigation, the doctors informed us that my sister’s condition was hereditary and all of us in the family would need to undergo tests.
“It has been a long and difficult process, and we received the worst possible news last week, which confirmed I would have to retire from the game. It is obviously heartbreaking news and something I will have to digest.
“Football has been my life and all I ever wanted to do since the age of four. It is too soon for me to know what the next step will be but I look forward to the next chapter in my life with a positive attitude.
“I would like to thank the Torquay United players, staff and supporters for the encouragement they have given me over my time at the club. It was very tough breaking this news to the players today but they are a terrific bunch of lads, and I wish the football club every success for the future.”
Torquay United General Manager Geoff Harrop added: “This is devastating news for any young professional to end their career at just 23 years-old but I know everyone at Torquay United, players, staff and fans, will get right behind supporting Ryan and his family.
“I can only apologise to the Torquay United fans for not updating them on Ryan’s condition but it was obviously a very sensitive issue, with confidentiality and Ryan’s welfare our primary concern.
“I know Ryan will embark on the next step in his life with a positive attitude and we will be there for him whenever needed. As well as being a tremendous young footballer, he is a fantastic lad and will always be welcome at Plainmoor.”