DARREN Peacock has been forced to quit the game, bringing a premature end to a career that included a spell with Hereford United.

While on loan at Wolves, he received a blow to his neck and doctors feared for his long-term health if he played again.

At 32 this was a shock and for Hereford fans a time for reflection on the straggly-haired stopper who made the club almost £500,000 in transfer fees.

His career began at Newport County, who were on the verge of extinction when he arrived. After 28 games in the old Fourth Division the club went into receivership and assets were sold including Peacock.

Hereford manager Ian Bowyer brought him to Edgar Street and in April 1989 he made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Colchester United.

He started a handful of games and the following season was a regular, picking up the Player of the Year award and becoming captain.

He was even used to good effect as a makeshift striker and scored twice in a 5-4 defeat against Swindon in the Herefordshire Senior Cup.

United won the Welsh Cup that year and Peacock played a big part, after passing a fitness test on the morning, in a weakened side that beat Wrexham 2-1. His header set up Colin Robinson's opener.

By this stage he was attracting higher-graded interest and in December 1990, after 59 appearances and four goals, he moved to top-flight side Queens Park Rangers for £200,000. That easily remains the record fee received by United.

He established himself in the side within a month and went on to complete a century of games before moving to Newcastle United in a £2.4million deal that gained Hereford a further £240,000 thanks to a sell-on clause percentage.

He began well and there was talk of an England call-up. This never came and as Kevin Keegan's side stuttered through Premiership seasons and those around him flattered to deceive, he moved to Blackburn Rovers after again reaching three figures in appearances.

His time at Ewood Park coincided with their relegation to the First Division and he fell out of favour with the arrival of Graeme Souness and this led to speculation of a move and a temporary switch to Molineux.

His appearance, away at Fulham, when he injured his neck will be his last but Hereford fans can thank him for keeping the club alive.