Clarke Carlisle says he has retired from professional football because of the physical strain it is placing on his body and because he does not want to deny a younger player a place in the Cobblers side.
The 33-year-old confirmed this week that Saturday’s npower League Two final at Wembley will be his last paid performance in the sport.
Although the game against Bradford City was not Carlisle’s finest hour he had played to a very high standard in the games that preceded it, helping shut out a talented Cheltenham Town side in both legs of the semi-final.
But he insists the time is right to bring down the curtain on a 16-year career in the sport.
“I don’t want to let the team down,” he said. “I know the captain will lead the side very well and that the manager will have a queue of players to replace me.
“I fully expect and hope Northampton will make the progression they need to make next year and go up automatically.
“I don’t think the gaffer wants me to leave but the time is right. I’ve always been told that when you know, you will know, and I know it’s time.
“When I almost retired last year it was because I felt the game didn’t want or need me any more, but to carry on and get to Wembley this year leaves me enormously content and has given me stories to tell my children and grandchildren.”
Carlisle’s place in the Northampton line-up is likely to be taken by Nathan Cameron, whom he partnered for the final four games of the season and who is currently considering a contract offer at Sixfields.
The penny truly dropped for the defender, though, during an end-of-season conversation with youth-team striker David Moyo, who was seeking advice after signing his first professional contract.
It helped form a realisation that the game always requires new blood, and that it was time to allow such players a chance to flourish.
“I don’t want to be that guy that knocks around a football club picking up a wage and living off seasons past because he can’t let it go,” said Carlisle.
“If I’m doing that I won’t perform and my reputation and self esteem will drop but also I’m depriving someone else of their opportunity to play.
“Just seeing out the last year of my contract at Northampton would deprive someone of an opportunity because the club cannot afford to do that.”
As well as such implications there was also a physical consideration for Carlisle to make.
He missed very little first-team action during either of his two spells with the Cobblers but there was plenty of pain and medical treatment going on behind the scenes.
“I’ve had x-rays on my ankles this season because they keep locking sporadically and I have to have an anasthetic to play in the play-off final,” he said.
“It’s not an option any more. We’ve got fantastic staff here but Kingy (Andy King) and Cat (Tim Flowers) haven’t got a working joint between them.
“They work so hard and they can barely move, and that’s because of their commitment to the game and their physical exertion. “I don’t want that. I’ve already had a knee reconstruction and I’ve got young children who I want to enjoy being with and playing with.
“If I have to stop a year before scheduled to preserve that then I will.”