STRIKER Billy Kee says Accrington Stanley ‘will always have a place in my heart’ after announcing his retirement from professional football for health reasons.
The 29-year-old has had a long battle with mental health issues, which he has talked openly about, and didn’t return to pre-season training last summer.
Kee and Stanley agreed to terminate his contract by mutual consent in mid-January and it was hoped he would be at yesterday’s game against AFC Wimbledon at the Wham Stadium to say his farewells.
Fans’ favourite Kee enjoyed two spells at Accrington. He spent the 2009-10 season on loan at the club from Leicester and then rejoined from Scunthorpe in 2015.
In the following four years, he netted 68 league goals in 174 appearances. In total, he scored 83 goals for Stanley.
Kee notched 26 goals in 2017-18 as the Reds won League Two.
“Everyone knows my ongoing issues with depression and anxiety and in the summer I made it known about my bulimia which has affected me since I was at Leicester,” he said.
“The most important thing is my health and my family, my wife Leigh and two sons and, now I have made the decision, I feel in a better place.
“Accrington will always have a place in my heart and I can never thank owner Andy Holt, manager John Coleman and assistant manager Jimmy Bell enough for everything they have done for me.
“The best moment of my football career was scoring the winner at Luton in the League Two championship season and winning the league. That was so special, to celebrate with the owner, the management, my team-mates and the fans.”
Boss John Coleman said: “We want to thank Billy for everything he has done, his health is paramount and we want him to get well.
“I class Billy as a good friend and he is the closest person to family as a player.”
Owner Andy Holt said: “We were aware of the problems Billy had from the end of last season and the last six to eight months we have been trying to find a solution.
“We knew Billy’s heart was not in it at this level and he needs to find time and space and a new future for him. He is welcome here anytime.”
Stanley produced a special Billy Kee-themed programme for last Saturday’s game.