MICHAEL Kightly has spoken of his pride after officially announcing the end of his career.

The former winger - who started and finished his career at Southend United - has opted to hang up his boots.

And the Basildon-born 33-year-old knows it is the right time to stop playing.

“It’s been a great career but one that has been tough physically on my body, with a lot operations and it’s been tough mentally as well, more so in the last couple of years,” said Kightly.

“To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult a decision to make.

“I thought about it in the summer and then I came back to pre-season and thought the time was right for me.”

Kightly played in the Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Stoke City and Burnley before opting to return to Roots Hall in the summer of 2017.

But the former Chalvedon School pupil was frustrated he was unable to hit top form with the Shrimpers.

“It’s frustrating when your legs can’t do what they used to do,” said Kightly.

“I could probably play on for another year, or a couple of years, but I don’t see the point to be honest.

“I was lucky enough to fulfil my dream of playing in the Premier League so I’m really proud of all that I achieved.

“It’s time for a new chapter and, although I’m scared about it, I’m looking forward to it at the same time.”

Kightly’s retirement was revealed by Echosport towards the start of July.

And he has already adjusted to his new lifestyle before he begins working with an agency helping young players.

“I’ve tried to relax physically and mentally and I’ve played a bit of golf,” said Kightly.

“I’m going to look into agency work with a company that I’ve been with over the last 10 years or so to try and help and guide players from the things I went through.

“I say it quite a lot, but being a footballer is tough mentally and unless you’ve been a footballer you don’t understand it fully, so I’d like to think I understand it.

“I want to use my experience to help others and I’m looking forward to doing that.

“It is scary because all I’ve known is playing the game but I feel like I do have a passion in helping others on and off the pitch.

“I’ll be going to games and watching games and then just trying to build relationships with players and deal with them on a daily basis which I’m looking forward to.”

Kightly made 424 appearances in his career and also represented England at under-21 level.

But he was pleased to be able to end his playing days with his hometown club.

"I always thought when I left that I’d like to come back so I’m very grateful to the club and Ron (Martin) and all the fans for having me back and I wish them all the success in the future," said Kightly.

"I would’ve liked it to have been a bit of a better ending with a promotion rather than avoiding relegation but you can’t have it all.

"I wish the club all the success and hopefully they can achieve some great things.”