TROWBRIDGE’S Lewis Haldane says he’s determined to keep his head high as he comes to terms with the premature end of his professional football career.

The 27-year-old Port Vale winger was forced into retirement earlier this week after losing a lengthy injury battle with the irreparable ankle cartilage damage caused by the double-leg break he suffered in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash with Tranmere Rovers in August 2011.

The former Clarendon School pupil, whose parents Debbie and Simon both still live in Trowbridge, broke into the pro game in 2002 when he was snapped up by Bristol Rovers after starring for Trowbridge Town as a 17-year-old. He says that the end of his career coming 10 years later is a bitter pill to swallow.

“It’s been hard but it didn’t really sink in until I sat down to watch the news and saw it pop up at the bottom of the screen that I’d retired – I almost wanted to cry,” Haldane told the Wiltshire Times.

“You always know that your career is going to come to an end one day but I didn’t expect it to happen now.

“I’ve been playing for 10 years and football has been my life since I was young.

“When I was in the centre of excellence at Southampton, my parents used to drive me around everywhere and I really appreciate what they did for me.

“I’ve literally had thousands of messages on twitter from Port Vale fans, Bristol Rovers fans, Oxford United fans, Forest Green Fans and even fans from other clubs like Carlisle United.

“It’s nice to know that people have nice things to say about me.

“Every cloud has a silver lining and it’s just up to me to try and find what I’m going to do next after football.

“I don’t know what that’s going to be.”

In the 2006-2007 season, Haldane was man of the match as Bristol Rovers were beaten 3-2 at the Millennium Stadium in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final and also featured at Wembley as the Pirates won promotion to League One with a 3-1 play-off final triumph over Shrewsbury Town.

The Trowbridge ace revealed that neither of those occasions will go down as his greatest career highlight.

“ I feel like I’ve had a pretty good career and Wembley and the Millennium Stadium were great but the thing I’ll remember most is playing is Elland Road (in December 2007),” said Haldane.

“I’m a Leeds fan and I remember going up there to watch games with my dad back in the Champions League days. To play there was amazing.”

Haldane looks to the future in part two of our exclusive interview in next week’s Wiltshire Times