FORMER City defender Stephen Darby has been forced to retire from football after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The 29-year-old, a key member of Phil Parkinson's "history makers" in 2013, has not played a game since December.

Darby, who married England women's captain Steph Houghton in the summer, spent five years at Valley Parade and made 239 appearances.

The right back only scored once - but it was a significant goal with the extra-time winner against Burton during the club's unprecedented march to Wembley in the Capital One Cup.

He was a stalwart figure in the side that went back to the national stadium to win promotion from League Two later that season.

Darby said: “It is with great sadness that I announce my immediate retirement from professional football due to a recent diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank my teammates, Phil Parkinson and all the staff at Bolton Wanderers for their amazing support at what has been an extremely difficult period for myself and my family.

“I would like to ask for privacy at this time so I can adjust to the battle I have ahead and so that I can spend time with those closest to me.”

Parkinson said: “This is heart breaking news for Stephen and his family.

“He is an outstanding professional and a fantastic person.

“He was simply magnificent during his time at Bradford and was a key figure in the resurgence of Bradford City as a football club.

“He typified everything the city and the football club represented and led by example on and off the pitch."

City chairman Edin Rahic said: "The news is absolutely heartbreaking. Stephen was a massive part of the club's recent history and his contributions will stay with us forever.

"We will do whatever we can to assist Stephen and his wife Steph and are now looking at ways in which we can do so."