Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail
I have had 23 years to prepare for this moment but, now it is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all. The time has come refer to myself as a 'former footballer'; this incredible journey I have been on since I was 16 is over.
My ambition was to play until I was 40, so it is scary saying the word 'retirement'. It has left me emotional and it feels weird not to be preparing for a new campaign but circumstances over the last couple of seasons have made me realise that this is the right thing to do.
To go from being a regular starter to someone whose role is limited to 10 or 15 minutes off the bench has been hard to accept. I will be 39 in January but I am physically fit and could have carried on. What I didn't want to be was someone who was thrown on to have balls smashed up to them.
1 – Volley for Stoke v Man City (March 24, 2012)
2 – Scissor-kick for Liverpool v Galatasary (September 27, 2006)
3 – Left-foot shot to complete hat-trick for Liverpool v Arsenal in front of The Kop (March 31, 2007)
4 – Scissor-kick for Portsmouth v Stoke (October 5, 2008)
5 – Finish against Man City to put Spurs in CL (May 5, 2010)
So this announcement feels a bit surreal. We have just welcomed our fourth child, Jack, into the family and the wonderful chaos that comes with a new baby means it hasn't really hit me that I haven't gone back for pre-season training. Life is hectic in a brilliant way.
But I know there is going to be a point when it really hits me. Football has opened up avenues that I never thought were possible when I started scoring goals in the Hayes and District league as an Under-10. Football, simply, made my dreams come true.
I think back to when I was 17. I was a trainee at Tottenham then but there were 10 forwards in front of me, blocking my route to the first team. They loaned me out to Dulwich Hamlet then I went to IFK Hassleholm in Sweden. Let's be honest – you would not have taken odds on me making it then.
I've had the time of my life playing the sport I love... it's time to write the next chapters
Now the moment is here, you realise nothing can prepare you at all for retirement
Crouch played with midfield great Steven Gerrard while at Premier League giants Liverpool
The former Liverpool man hits his hat-trick goal against Arsenal at Anfield back in 2007
Crouch celebrates Liverpool's FA Cup triumph in 2006 with Pepe Reina and Robbie Fowler
He nearly won the Champions League in 2007 with Liverpool but they came undone in the final
The 38-year-old married his wife Abbey Clancy in 2011 - they have two daughters and two sons
If you had told me at that point I would go on to play for England 42 times and score 22 goals, play for Liverpool in a Champions League and FA Cup final and score the goal that put Tottenham back in the European Cup for the first time in four decades, I would have had you