Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has had his contract at Bury cancelled after informing the League One club that he needs 'time and space away from football'.
Bury boss David Flitcroft has agreed to the request, with Kirkland thanking the manager and the club's chairman "for the compassion and understanding they have shown."
Kirkland, who made close to 100 appearances for Wednesday during the course of three years at Hillsborough, signed for Bury in June have spent a season at Preston North End following his departure from the Owls.
The 35 year-old is hoping to return to the game at some point, but in a statement posted on Bury's official website, Kirkland says he is 'putting my family's future and well-being first."
“I have asked Bury FC to cancel my contract with immediate effect and I am thankful to the Gaffer and the Chairman for the compassion and understanding they have shown.
“I know people will find it hard to understand why someone like myself, who has been lucky enough to have spent my professional life in football and enjoyed all the benefits that comes with that, needs some time and space away from the game; however, it's a decision I've taken putting my families future and well-being first. It's been the toughest decision I've ever had to make, but I know it's the right one.
“I hope, at the appropriate time, I might be able to, again, be involved and work within football, either as a player or in coaching or even work within the community. I believe that taking this break will allow me to come back refreshed, with a new perspective on the game that will be valuable to someone.
“Again, I'd like to place on record my thanks to the club, the players, the staff, management and the Chairman for showing what top class people they are in how they've managed this situation for me. I'll be supporting them all season long and wishing them well in the League One campaign. Above all, I wish great success to David Flitcroft, who's shown me that leadership of a football club carries with it many responsibilities and he excels at all of them; I will always be grateful for the support he has given me.”
Also on the club website, Flitcroft added: ""It's been a difficult situation to deal with for me as a manager. When someone like Chris Kirkland, who has so much to offer the game as a player and as a person comes into your building and says he doesn't want to and can't carry on you have to listen."
He went on: "Chris needs time out away from the game he loves, but family is and will always be more important than football. Chris has chosen to devote all his time to his family and both the club and I support his difficult decision."
Kirkland began his career at Coventry City and was widely tipped to become England's future number one, when making a big money move to Liverpool in 2001. However, his time at Anfield was dogged by injury and he made just 45 appearances for the Reds over five years. After loan spells at West Brom and Wigan, Kirkland eventually signed permanently for the Latics and spent six years there before falling out of favour.
He would then join Sheffield Wednesday in 2012 and became a popular figure at Hillsborough before leaving in 2015, when at the time he stated that he wanted to move closer to his home in the north west.