It’s that time of year, clubs are starting to reveal who they are letting go, and one experienced EFL keeper this week retires following his release.
The shot-stopper played a total of 339 matches throughout his career which started all the way back in 1997.
Yes, that man in Stephen Bywater who was let go by League One side Burton Albion, who finished 12 in the table for the 2019/20 season.
Thank you! Great times! https://t.co/h9OuQWVcgr
— Stephen Bywater (@stephen_bywater) June 15, 2020
He was axed by new boss Jake Buxton, who makes his first big decisions after he succeeding Nigel Clough as player-manager at the Pirelli Stadium.
Bywater had been out of the picture at Burton for a while, his last appearance for the club coming in an EFL Trophy tie against Everton back in October 2019, but remained registered with the club in case of a goalkeeper crisis.
Buxton said: “It’s always a tough decision to let lads go who have helped the club on and off the field but all the decisions are made in the best interests of the football club and the player.
“I want to thank all the players who will be leaving us for the contributions they have made to Burton Albion whether they have been here on permanent deals or on loan. It’s never easy saying goodbye to players and we wish them all the best for the future.”
Bywater said after the retained and released statement came out: “@burtonalbionfc I have not been released. I’ve retired from professional football. Please can this be amended? Thank you. ??.”
Thank you. Wembley win!!! Whole season was awesome. Not been one like it since….Needs to be repeated. It’s been too long. DCFC back in the Top flight is a must. https://t.co/SwKyvvB3MJ
— Stephen Bywater (@stephen_bywater) June 16, 2020
The 39-year-old has now hung up his boots after a 23-year playing career that started at Rochdale and took in a further 14 clubs.
They included West Ham, Wycombe, Hull, Wolves, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Gillingham, Doncaster, Kerala Blasters and of course his final club in Burton.
He won the Championship playoffs with the Rams in 2005 and with the Hammers in 2005 as well as League One promotion with the Owls in 2012.
It was in 1999 that Bywater made his England U19 debut and rotated in the role with both Paul Robinson and Chris Kirkland.
He later progressed to the U21 team with the same group of players though by that time both Kirkland and Robinson had become established league players. Due to that and injuries, he made six appearances for the U21 team.
Bywater was tipped to be called up for the England squad after Derby’s promotion to the Premier League in 2006–07, but he wasn’t picked.
? Thank you John. I can sit back and enjoy sport….. knowing I used to do that. I’m now on to another career that I can retire from. Keep challenging the body and mind every day. ??. Stay well my friend. https://t.co/pJilARMOIS
— Stephen Bywater (@stephen_bywater) June 17, 2020
Fans took to social media once learning that the experienced EFL keeper retires after 22 years of playing…
— Ash? (@ashleighward96) June 16, 2020
— Dan (@danowl16) June 15, 2020
Get your rat outtttt ?
— Beck (@BMinion25) June 16, 2020
Can remember your first game, Hull away, emergency loan, think your dad handed you your gloves as you got off team coach?? Played a blinder and was so nice to have a keeper that came off his line to collect balls and who was vocal!
— Carl Betteridge (@Nobby0101) June 16, 2020
Happy retirement, what a guy
— Abbey Jackson (@Abbey_JJ27) June 16, 2020
Get Yourrrrrr RAT out!!! Love you Man!! The season that ended with a Wembley win was my first as a season ticket holder. Will never forget that squad. Loved the lot of you!! Take it easy big man!! Come back to Pride Park sometime soon ???? once a ? always a ?
— James Palmer ?? (@j_palmer1992) June 16, 2020
Happy Retirement @stephen_bywater
Obviously the playoff final was our greatest memory but you getting sent off at Ipswich away and running down the tunnel about to deck one of their lads (think it was Alex Bruce) was also epic.
— Derby Retweets (@DerbyRetweets) June 16, 2020
Top keeper and character. Happy retirement @stephen_bywater
— James Turner (@J4ME591) June 15, 2020
Good luck on your retirement Stephen – a great keeper for us at swfc and never forget this pic ? you certainly have to be crazy to be a keeper ? pic.twitter.com/p4wZPLl1ZQ
— E S25OWL ? (@davo33uk) June 15, 2020
Wish you’d been in the net that night the Leeds fan ran on the pitch. Happy retirement
— OneGoalShort (@GoalShort) June 15, 2020
Great player in real life and a champ manger wonderkid back in the day ?
— Chris Bingham (@captainhelmet69) June 15, 2020