Robert Earnshaw retires from playing career, will join Vancouver Whitecaps academy as coach

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Robert Earnshaw is calling time on his playing career, but he will remain with the club.

Earnshaw and the club announced his retirement on Thursday, wrapping up an 18-year professional career. Earnshaw will now join the organization's coaching staff, becoming the Whitecaps academy's U-14 team head coach and the first-team forwards coach.

“I'm excited and ready to move on to the next stage of my life,” said Earnshaw in a team statement. “I will miss being in the locker room with the guys but I look forward to the opportunity to share what I've learned and help mold the club's young prospects. I am forever thankful to all the people who have supported me throughout the years -- from my family, to my coaches, teammates, support staff, and of course the supporters.”

The Zambian-born Welsh international played the 2015 season with the Whitecaps, winning the 2015 Amway Canadian Championship. He joined MLS in 2013 with Toronto FC, before departing for England the following year and returning to North America later in 2014, joining the Chicago Fire in midseason.

“Congratulations to Earnie on a fantastic playing career,” said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. “I had the pleasure of playing with him at both club and country level and last year as his coach. He was a model player throughout his career, approaching everyday with professionalism, demanding high standards for himself and his teammates. We are thrilled he's staying on with the club and I now look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Earnshaw, 34, began his career at Welsh side Cardiff City in 1998, playing over 200 games for the club over two stints. He also featured for Scottish side Greenock Morton, English clubs West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv. Earnshaw has the distinction of being the only player to score a hat trick in every English professional league, the FA Cup and League Cup, and for his country.

All told, Earnshaw scored 236 goals in 578 appearances for club and country during his career.

“Football has been a big part of my life since I was a kid,” Earnshaw said. “It's been an honor to play for a living and I am fortunate to be able to continue doing what I love. I can't wait to get started working with the kids."