Sam Coulson has called time on his playing career on medical advice due to a knee injury.
The 19-year-old defender joined The Potters at the age of 16 after being with Manchester City for nine years. Stoke City saw something in the youngster and offered him a sponsorship hoping he would flourish into a first-team regular one day.
Coulson was called up to the England Under-18 squad prior to his 17th birthday, becoming the second youngest player to do so, for a friendly against Italy. International call-ups at that level and moments like training alongside the Ryan Shawcross will now be considered experiences Coulson will forever cherish.
Four months after his initial call-up, Coulson witnessed the beginning of the end. A long-standing injury had gone undetected and his knee became swollen. Unknown at the time by Coulson or Stoke City's medical staff, his knee had undergone Osteoarthritic changes leading to a crumbling of the bone.
In March 2013, Coulson had undergone his first operation which was later followed by a setback in his rehabilitation. It took the defender over a year to play football again as he finished the season by featuring in just five games.
"The hardest thing over the 13 months without doubt was dealing with the mental effect the injury had on me as a person," Coulson told Stoke City's official website.
"I had to make sure that I stayed positive for the most part and stayed completely focused on the end goal of overcoming the injury."
The younger was awarded his first professional contract after showcasing his potential and dedication to the game. However, it was about to turn ugly as a third operation loomed along with doubts over his future career in football.
When Coulson gradually sat down with club Doctor and Academy Director Dave Wright to discuss his future, the outcome was exactly what he feared.
"They sat me down and explained to me the worst possible scenario that I could face," he added.
"I had to choose between a career at low level professional football with the possibility of causing detrimental damage to my knee; which would affect my quality of life for years to come. Or, I should retire from playing the game I love."
Since Coulson has had to call time on his playing career prematurely, Stoke City have offered the young defender a fantastic opportunity to become a part-time coach whilst completing his coaching badges.