Aaron Stewart has dismissed speculation that he will retire from football after being released by Ballymena United last week.
But the defender insists he is likely to take some time away from the game after his 14-year association with the Sky Blues came to an end.
“I’ve heard a lot of people mentioning the word ‘retirement’ during the week but that’s a fairly intimdating word!” Aaron told Times Sport.
“But I am going to step away from the game for a while - it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to and not something I have taken lightly.
The 25-year-old has certainly had plenty of time to ponder his future, having been sidelined with a dislocated shoulder sustained in United’s 2-2 draw at Warrenpoint in November.
“My hunger and desire for playing football is not what it once was and the way I’ve been brought up, I’m not going to commit to any club without being 100 per cent dedicated.”
Stewart insists that the decision for him to leave was a mutual one, stating: “As far back as October, I had spoken to Glenn and told him it might be time for me to move on because, in my opinion, I wasn’t going to be the type of defender he was looking for.
“There might have been a possibility I could have moved on in January but the injury put paid to that.
“The time I spent out injured allowed me to become more involved in my church and there were things there that I might not have been able to do if I had been playing football.
“I’m still very passionate about football but at the same time, it has allowed me to see there are more important things in life.”
Aaron admits it will be difficult to get used to life away from the club, having progressed from the Youth Academy through to the first team.
“I made almost 220 appearances for the first team but when you consider all the other teams at the different age groups, I probably played maybe another 300 games for the club so it has been a big part of my life.
“I’ve had a few enquiries from clubs and I’ve told them I’ll give them the courtesy of hearing what they have to say but I’ve also given them an indication of what my intentions are.”
Unsurprisingly, Stewart’s main highlight of his time at Ballymena was the County Antrim Shield success in 2012, when Stewart, who started the match as captain, was named man-of-the-match.
“With the club winning its first trophy in so long and me having a pretty good game, it was pretty much the ideal night.
“As well as that, any victory over Linfield was special because they were probably the dominant force in my time in the Irish League.
“It’ll be odd not being at Ballymena but one sure thing is that it won’t be the last time people see me at the Showgrounds - I’ll be up watching when the new season starts,” added Aaron.