LEON Cort will not be heading back to Southend United after announcing his retirement.

The 34-year-old centre back, who made 161 appearances for the Shrimpers at the start of his career, lined up as a trialist for Phil Brown’s side at Braintree Town on Saturday.

But he has now opted to hang up his boots.

“I thought I could carry on playing for another year or two but my knee swelled up again after playing on Saturday and I think the time is right for me to stop playing,” said Cort.

“It’s not really sunk in at the moment but I always knew this day was going to come.

“If it had happened when I was 24 or 25 then I would’ve been devastated but I’ve played until I’ve 34 and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some memorable moments in the game.

“Many of them came at Southend and I think people are already bored of hearing me talking about the hat-trick I once scored for them.

“That was a real high point for me and so was winning promotion to the Premier League with Stoke City.”

Cort first came to prominence during a three year spell with the Shrimpers which ended in 2004.

And, despite it being just a pre-season friendly, the defender was pleased his final ever appearance also came in a Shrimpers shirt.

“I always wanted to come back to Southend and end my career here and it was nice to play for them for one last time at the weekend,” said Cort.

“My spell there was quite successful for me personally, I played a lot of games and I really did learn a lot.

“I had a great time at the club and I didn’t want to come back and not be able to do myself justice.

“I didn’t want to let Phil Brown or the fans down and I know I just can’t keep on playing now.”

However, Cort is still keen to remain involved in the game and is particularly keen on finding himself a job in the media.

“I’m good friends with Clarke Carlisle who has gone in to the media side of things and he’s introduced me to a few people,” said Cort.

“I know it’s very hard to get in to but it’s something that certainly interests me.

“I will also be doing some coaching.”

Cort made a total of 462 appearances during his career and went on to play for Hull City, Crystal Palace, Stoke, Burnley and Charlton Athletic, who he was with last season.

The defender came through the youth ranks at Millwall and also spent time on loan with Preston North End during the 2010/11 season, where he was managed by Phil Brown.

And the now Shrimpers chief was full of praise for Cort.

“Leon is a great guy and I wish him all the very best with what he decides to do next,” said Brown.

“He sent me a text message to inform me of his decision and I think it spoke volumes about him as a person.

“He was very honest which I respect because I think quite a lot of players would have tried to go on for another year or two.”