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Stuart Dallas thanks the fans as tributes pour in
Thursday, 11th Apr 2024 21:54 by Tim Whelan

Stuart Dallas battled hard for two years to return to the game after his serious injury, but has now had to accept that he can no longer get back to the level of fitness needed to play the game at the top level. Club Chairman Paraag Marathe led the tributes, and the player has sent an emotional open letter to all the Leeds United fans.

A club statement said “Despite the best efforts of Stuart himself and surgeons, along with the medical and rehabilitation staff at Thorp Arch over the past two years, he has sadly been unable to make a return to play. “Naturally, there is great sadness from everyone within the club about this news, but we all wish Stuart the very best in his retirement”.

It goes without saying, Stuart is an icon of Leeds United and will always be welcome at Elland Road, his contribution will live long in the memory and he has cemented his place in history.” allas will go down as a legend for both club and country for his achievements in the game, whilst away from the pitch he has also shown his commitment to our local community, representing the club at numerous events and engaging regularly with supporters.”

Dallas grew up in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, and began his career with Coagh United before moving on to Crusaders and then coming over to join Brentford. After three years with the Bees he came to Elland Road, with many Brentford fans unhappy at his departure, which is always a good sign.

He was a winger when he first joined us, but over the years he became almost a 21st century Paul Madeley, as he played in a number of different roles, most often at left back in his latter days, as that had become a problem position for Leeds.

He might have thought that the Championship would be the pinnacle of his career, but he because one of a number of players who improved markedly under Marcello Bielsa and played every one of our Premier League games in 2020/1 as we finished 9th. He will always be remembered for scoring both goals in our remarkable win at Manchester City towards the end of that season.

But ironically he suffered what proved to be his career-ending injury against the same opposition in the April of the following season. With our battle against relegation neared it’s climax he launched into a desperate tackle on Jack Grealish, and came off far worse, with a femoral leg fracture.

We could have done with him during the desperate relegation season that followed, and maybe it would have made all the difference had he been able to play. But he had to endure a number of operations, with infection setting in more that once. Finally he was able to return to training, but he has been forced to accept that his top flight career is now over at the age of 32.

Though of course he was only 30 when he played his final game. It would have been nice to have given him a sentimental few minutes in the final game, but it’s highly unlikely we would have the luxury of doing that, with so much depending on that fixture. He will be introduced to the crowd at half time on Saturday, to give us the chance to say goodbye.

In total Dallas made 266 appearances for Leeds in all competitions, scoring 28 goals, though the club’s statement said that they are talking to him about a possible future role at Elland Road. The tributes have said that he is an intelligent and likeable man, so perhaps he might have a coaching career ahead of him.

In his farewell letter Dallas said “Sadly I must now accept the fact that my knee suffered irreparable damage and I will not be returning to play professional football. I am of course devastated by this news. I’ve been fortunate to work with some outstanding managers, but two in particular I want to pay special thanks to are Marcelo Bielsa and Michael O’Neill.

Marcelo’s incredible coaching helped me improve not just as a player, but as a person off the pitch too. Premier League football seemed a million miles away at times, but he made this all possible. These were simply the greatest years of my career and I created memories that I’ll cherish forever.”

“To my team mates over the years, nationally and domestically, there are too many to mention but you know who you are, friends for life. A special mention must go to Liam Cooper, who I’ve been with since I first walked through the doors at Thorp Arch many years ago. An incredible captain, team mate, friend and player whose talent and contribution to the team often goes unrecognised. The man is truly a wonderful human.”

My final thanks must go to you, the Leeds United fans. Your passion and love for this team and city is what makes Leeds so special. You really are the 12th man. As the famous anthem goes, “we’ve been through it all together and we’ve had our ups and downs”. I’ve been lucky enough to have shared your joy within the wonderful stadium that is Elland Road.

“Leeds United is now well and truly in my blood, I have memories that will remain with me forever and I look forward to joining you in the stands as Daniel Farke and the team aim to take us back to the Premier League and beyond. As sad as it is that my career as a player is over, I can look back with so many happy memories, representing a team that has made such an impact on my life. Leeds is a place I will call home forever.”

Liam Cooper returned the compliments by saying “My best pal! Thank you. What a player but what an even better person. Life can be seriously cruel at times. Just know the same fight you had to get back fit is the same fight that will make you successful in whatever is next.” Pablo said "I love you Stu……its been pleasure playing with you bro...big player and very very big person….goods things are coming for you."

Mateusz Klich weighed in with "It's been pleasure playing with you my friend. All the best." And Raphinha tore himself away from a Champions League win to say "All the best in your life my bro. Thank you magic."

His absence has also been keenly felt at international level, with Northern Ireland having a limited pool of players to call on. He earned 62 caps for them, scoring three goals, and their manager Michael O'Neill said Dallas "maximised everything from his career". He told BBC Sport NI that "He was a brilliant player for Northern Ireland, his levels of consistency were so high."

"He should look back on his career and be proud of what he achieved. It's very sad that any player's career finishes when they're in their prime and that's what's happened to Stuart unfortunately. I think he will stay in the game. Certainly his influence on young players would be a positive thing, I think he has a huge amount to offer to the game."

Thank you for the memories Stuart a legend at club and international level. Whether you stay at the club in a coaching role or try your luck somewhere else, could look with everything you do. You certainly deserve better fortunes than what you’ve had to put up with in the last couple of years.


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