Joe Thompson decided to retire at the age of 29 two weeks ago following two successful battles with cancer as the Rochdale midfielder wrote another chapter in one of the most inspirational football stories ever.
Thompson, who was born and raised in Bath, moved to Manchester before making his professional debut for Rochdale in 2006. He went on to make over 150 appearances for Dale before making the short trip to Merseyside as he joined Tranmere Rovers in the summer of 2012.
Just over a year later, Thompson received life-changing news as he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; nodular sclerosis Hodgkin Lymphona in late 2013. He subsequently did not play again for Tranmere for the remainder of that season as he began his treatment and was then released at the of the season 2013-14 season as Tranmere were relegated.
After recovering from his illness, he spent short spells at Bury, Southport, Wrexham and Carlisle United. In the summer of 2016, Thompson returned to Rochdale on an initial 6-month contract with the hope of kick-starting his career once more. However, in March 2017, Thompson announced that his cancer has returned.
However, he successfully beat cancer for a second time and he began playing once again, making his return on 23rd December 2017 for Rochdale against Walsall at Spotland.
Meanwhile, Rochdale were in a relegation dog-fight for the majority of the 2017-18 season, partially due to many of their games being postponed and re-arranged because of their FA Cup run which saw Thompson make an appearance at Wembley in Dale’s 6-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the 5th round replay.
It went down to the last game of the season where it would they or Oldham Athletic who would be relegated to League Two. Oldham failed to win at already-relegated Northampton Town as Rochdale beat Charlton Athletic 1-0 through a Thompson goal to keep the club in League One. After fighting for his life only a year previously, Thompson had written the fairy-tale ending to the season for both himself and Rochdale.
This would prove to be the final goal of his career as in February 2019, he announced his retirement from professional football. After facing a fight against cancer twice, Joe Thompson came through and wrote his name into Rochdale’s history and helped them fend off relegation in the most incredible and emotional way.
Is Joe Thompson’s story the most inspirational in League football ever? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @AllOutFootball using the hashtag #AOF!’
featured image credit rochdaleafc.co.uk