By James Barrett
Former Carshalton Athletic star Craig Tanner may have seen his playing days cut short by injury, but he harbours no bitterness.
At just 26, the midfielder has accepted that a persistent knee injury has ended a nine-year career that, while short, is littered with happy memories.
Tanner, who ended his days at Met Police of the Ryman Square Premier Division, made more than 200 non-League appearances before a doctor’s prognosis brought the curtain down.
“I had a second major operation on my knee last November after taking a heavy knock during a game against Hendon,” Tanner said
“I damaged the cartilage early on in my career and had a lot of it removed when I was 18, meaning the knee wasn’t fully protected and became easily aggravated.
“I thought I'd be out for six to eight weeks, and was planning my rehabilitation so I could rejoin the squad as quickly as possible because the club was enjoying a successful season.
"But I received the worst news possible when I saw the doctor for a check up. He said the knee wouldn't hold up to sustained punishment and I would suffer from early arthritis, maybe even have to walk with a cane by the time I was 30, if I didn't stop putting it under strain."
Tanner’s career included spells at Sutton United and Hampton & Richmond Borough, but he started out as a 17-year-old at Tooting & Mitcham – where he was named captain at just 18 and would go on to make more than 150 appearances.
At 20, Tanner stepped up two levels to the Blue Square South to join Sutton United.
He said: “I had a trial at Bournemouth that summer but the club went into administration and I wasn't offered a contract.
“Sutton came in for me shortly after and, as I have never been motivated by money, the lure of proving myself higher up was enough motivation for me to leave, even though Tooting did offer to increase my wages if I stayed," he said.
After only 15 appearances at Gander Green Lane, Tanner joined Hampton & Richmond Borough where he spent four seasons, making almost 50 appearances, before moving to Colston Avenue and finally Met Police.
“It would have been nicer to have a longer playing career but I’ve been fortunate to play for clubs that have been good to me,” he said.
“I will always remember the two seasons where I was close to getting promoted to the Blue Square Premier with Hampton.
“And being part of the Carshalton team that beat Lincoln City in the third round of the FA Trophy was special.”
He added: "Ultimately I would love to become a manager. The Met gaffer, Jim Cooper, has been great and allowed me to be involved in training the youth team, plus I do a little bit of scouting for him.
“I’m aiming to earn my coaching badges so one day I can return to the game that I love with fresh perspectives and ideas.”