Kelly Smith, England’s all-time leading scorer, announced her retirement from international play on Tuesday, ending a 20-year career just before the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Smith scored 46 goals in 117 appearances for England. She says she will continue to play for her club, Arsenal.
“After a lot of consideration and many conversations, I have made the toughest decision of my career to retire from international football,” she said.
“Being a part of women’s football over the last 20 years I have seen massive strides in the development and growth of the game and the women’s national team. I am confident the current wealth of talent that Mark Sampson has in the England squad can achieve something special at the World Cup in Canada this summer.”
Smith, 36, is one of the best playmakers in history, having played for Arsenal on multiple occasions in addition to stints in the United States with the Philadelphia Charge (WUSA) and Boston Breakers (WPS). She first came to the U.S. on scholarship with Seton Hall University.
Smith battled injuries throughout her career, including multiple broken legs. she endured what later became a very public battle with alcoholism and she overcame what she said were suicidal thoughts.
In 2012, Smith recovered from a broken leg in only a few months in order to be fit for Team Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
As Smith notes in detail in her autobiography, “Footballer: My Story”, she quickly turned to alcohol while playing at Seton Hall from 1997-99, a problem that worsened during her time in Philadelphia from 2001-2003, when she again battled multiple injuries.
Smith was a WUSA all-star in 2001 with the Charge and she was voted a WPS all-star in 2009 and 2010.
She made her senior debut for England on Nov. 1, 1995, three days after her 17th birthday. She competed in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups for England as well as four European Championships. She only once cracked the top three of the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year vote, finishing third in 2009 behind Marta and Birgit Prinz.
“Kelly will be remembered as one of the iconic players in the history of the women’s international game,” Sampson said.
“The term ‘world class’ is often overused but when looking back over Kelly’s international career she has consistently shown on the biggest stage she was without a doubt one of the greatest ever players.
“Her legacy is not only on the field but off it, there are thousands of young girls who would count Kelly as their inspiration as well as a number of our current senior squad would see Kelly as their role model. Her ability combined with her determination to win made her a fantastic role model for our current group of senior and youth players.”
Smith said she will remain active in the game, hinting at continued coaching roles.
“I’m at a different stage in my life now, I am focusing on coaching and working my way up to get my licences and stay involved in football that way, along with playing for Arsenal.
“Women’s football has changed so much since I started playing and I am proud to have been a part of that,” she said. “I’m pleased that I’ll still be working in the game and with The FA in its activities moving forwards.”
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