On 6th December 2012, Fulham Manager Martin Jol told the gathered press that Zdenek Grygera had made the decision to retire from English football, exactly one year and one month after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in a match with Tottenham Hotspur.
The defender has worked tirelessly in his bid to get back to fitness and managed to play for the First Team in pre-season, as well as a handful of matches for Kit Symons’ Under-21 side. However, two quad injuries set his progress back before he came to the conclusion that playing Barclays Premier League football again would be a step too far.
Being the popular and jovial character that he is, though, Zdenek continues to focus on the positives and was full of praise for the Club and the support he has received since moving to SW6.
“I have to say thank you very much to Fulham,” he told the official website. “Thank you to the medical staff and to everyone. I felt that there was a family atmosphere here and everyone was very friendly towards me and that made things a lot easier for me because I have been injured for more than one year and sometimes that can be hard.
“So for this I would like to thank everyone; the Manager, the Club, the Directors. I hope to come back to visit Fulham in the springtime and many times after that to see everyone. I will go on being a supporter of Fulham.
“Also, I want to say thank you to the fans. Every match when I come to Craven Cottage, the people stop me on the street and ask me how my recovery is going and how my injury is and whether I am close to signing a new contract.
“I told them that I was doing well but I needed time. So I am disappointed and my supporters will be disappointed but, for me, the important thing now is to be fit. I’m still young; 32, almost 33, so my fitness is important for the rest of my life. I don’t want to take the risk of playing one or two games when my legs are not ready, which is the case at the moment.
“I think the best match for me in a Fulham shirt was the League Cup against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, although the 6-0 against Queens Park Rangers was obviously a better result. From every match I played for Fulham, though, I had a good feeling and that’s why I was happy here.”
Grygera admits that the decision to leave the English game has been one that he has been thinking about for a while and, as the former Czech Republic international prepares to return to his homeland, he believes that there may be some football left in him yet.
“First, I need some rest for my head and that will be perfect now as it’s Christmas time. I asked the Club if I could stay here until the 15th December because I want to be fit, and I want to keep getting fitter in January and February. Maybe I can play in the Czech Republic or Austria where the level is not so high – maybe.
“All my family is back home so, of course, it will be nice to spend time with them. For the future, I don’t want to do nothing and I will think about my career next year.”
Jol respected the former Juventus man’s decision, and paid tribute to one of his first signings as Fulham boss.
“He's an unbelievable character,” the Dutchman said. “It’s a shame and it was hard for him, but I have to say that he was very realistic. I feel for him because it’s tough; I thought there was another two or three years in him. But it was his decision.
“He’s retiring from Fulham, from England, and will return to his native country and then maybe, if he feels 100 per cent [he will play again], but the first thing is he wants to be fit and sound.”