FORMER Swindon Town defender Stephen Darby has announced his retirement from football, aged 29, after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

The right-back, who began his career at his hometown club Liverpool, received the diagnosis from a specialist recently.

He joined Championship side Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2017 but has not played since December.

Darby joined Town on loan from Liverpool in March 2010, going on to make 12 appearances and scored the decisive penalty in the League One play-off semi-final second leg shootout at Charlton Athletic, which took Swindon To Wembley.

In a statement released by Bolton, Darby said: “It is with great sadness that I announce my immediate retirement from professional football due to a recent diagnosis of motor neurone disease.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank my teammates, Phil Parkinson and all the staff at Bolton Wanderers Football Club for their amazing support at what has been an extremely difficult period for myself and my family.

“I would like to ask for privacy at this time so I can adjust to the battle I have ahead and so that I can spend time with those closest to me.”

While at Liverpool, Darby also had loan spells with Notts County and Rochdale before joining Bradford City, where he spent two seasons as club captain under current Bolton boss Parkinson.

Parkinson said: “This is heartbreaking news for Stephen and his family.

“He is an outstanding professional and a fantastic person.

“The Bolton Wanderers fans didn’t see the best of him due to limited first team opportunities, but I can assure everyone that he made a significant contribution in last year’s survival.”