Winger talks of race allegation nightmareLee Croft has admitted being wrongly accused of racial abuse was the darkest period of his career.
The winger, cleared by South Yorkshire Police this week of abusing a ball boy at Sheffield United, spoke of the horror of having that label attached to his name.
He said: "It has been the lowest point of my career and a tough couple of weeks with all the accusations flying about.
"It is one of the worst things you can be accused of and it hasn't been nice for my family and friends.
"I am glad the police had finished their thorough investigations in getting to the bottom of it, which I appreciate.
"There was no evidence to support the claims of the Sheffield United fans. I can now put it behind me and get on with playing football and not worry about anything else.
Croft, who admitted it was wrong to swear at the youth who kicked the ball away just as he was about to pick it up, added that he was horrified when he initially learned of the accusation which was levelled at him.
He continued: "I was a complete surprise because I didn't say anything.
"When I got called in by the police after the game and told I had been accused of racist abuse I couldn't believe it.
"It took a while to sink in and the next couple of weeks were difficult."
Croft, who has written a letter of apology to the ball boy, says the backing he has received from Latics - management, staff, players and fans alike - has been "brilliant."
He said: "They have supported me all the way through it.
"The gaffer even came to the police station with me and gave a statement on my behalf.
"It was great to have the backing of all my team mates and staff. It made a massive difference."
Croft added it was difficult focusing on his football as the accusations had been in the back of his mind throughout.
He said: "I always knew I hadn't done it, but there is always that doubt people get the wrong impression. And as we have seen before there have been miscarriages of justice.
"My family and friends know I would never say anything like that and I knew I was innocent.
"But for people who don't know me, there was always that doubt in the back of their minds.
"I am just glad it has all been sorted and I cannot get accused of that again."