Ivan Sproule announces retirement from football at age of 35

FORMER Hibernian fans' favourite Ivan Sproule will hang up his boots after playing his final game this afternoon.

Ivan Sproule pictured at the Hibs Training Centre in June 2011 after signing on for a second spell in green and white. Picture: Greg Macvean

The speedy Tyrone-born winger, who had two spells with Hibs as well as stints at Omagh Town, Institute, Bristol City, Yeovil Town, Notts County and Ross County joined Linfield in 2014.

Currently on loan at Ballinamallard United, Sproule will play in the Mallards’ crunch game away to Carrick Rangers before calling time on a 16-year career in football.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sproule gave up his job as a fabrication engineer to turn professional with Hibernian in January 2005, joining the Easter Road side from Institute for a fee of around £5,000.

Ivan Sproule is hoisted into the air by his team-mates after scoring the second goal of his hat-trick against Rangers. Picture: Kenny Smith

Despite taking a while to settle, leading to rumours he would return to Northern Ireland, Sproule became a key part of Tony Mowbray’s side, and signed an extended contract in the summer of 2005.

Sproule is fondly remembered by Hibs fans for his second half hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Rangers in August 2005.

The Northern Irishman climbed off the bench and netted in the 67th, 86th and 90th minutes, leading to a call-up to the international squad a month later.

Sproule won 11 caps for Northern Ireland, scoring one goal in a 1-0 win over Estonia at Windsor Park in March 2006.

Ivan Sproule is hoisted into the air by his team-mates after scoring the second goal of his hat-trick against Rangers. Picture: Kenny Smith

After 94 games and 18 goals during his first spell at Hibs, along with a League Cup win, he joined Bristol City, making 130 appearances in total and scoring seven goals, with his four-year spell at Ashton Gate being broken up by loan spells at Yeovil and Notts County.

Sproule returned to Hibs in 2011, making a further 53 appearances and netting four goals before falling out of favour and joining Ross County.

After 25 games and eight goals for the Staggies - including a goal against former club Hibs in a 1-0 win - he left the Highlands for personal reasons and returned home to Northern Ireland, signing for Linfield.

Sproule endeared himself to the Blues supporters by scoring a late winner in the Boxing Day derby between Linfield and Glentoran before getting sent off for removing his shirt during his celebrations.

Sproule retires having made 62 appearances for Linfield, scoring nine goals; his last in a 1-0 win over Dungannon Swifts in October 2015 while his final Linfield appearance was in a 2-0 loss at Portadown in November 2015.

A statement from Linfield read: “Ivan Sproule has announced his intention to retire from the game after the crucially important game for Ballinamallard away to Carrick Rangers.

“Best wishes are extended to Ivan from all of his many friends at Windsor Park.”

Hibs fans paid tribute to the tricky winger on social media, with Ross Grieve tweeting: “Happy retirement Ivan Sproule, a true Hibee. What a hero. Don’t think I’ve seen many that were as committed.”

Craig Leitch added: “Ivan Sproule retiring today. That day at Ibrox will forever be in my memory.”