Team-mates and fans have joined in an outpouring of sympathy to Barrow AFC star Lewis Hardcastle after the announcement he has been forced to retire at just 22.

It was confirmed by the Bluebirds that the midfielder has had to hang up his boots because of a heart condition.

Hardcastle had missed recent Barrow games as doctors got to the bottom of his illness.

And after a series of consultations, he received the devastating news that he could not continue his career.

Supporters and fellow players sent a deluge of good wishes to Hardcastle as the sad news emerged.

His fellow Bluebirds star Josh Kay, upon reading the announcement, tweeted to Hardcastle: “Gutted for you. Love you mate.”

Jamie Devitt added: “We are all with you mate.”

Supporters also sent the former Blackburn player messages of support.

It is a cruel blow to a popular player who had played a key part in Barrow’s rise back into the Football League.

Hardcastle made 13 appearances in their first campaign back in the league for 48 years.

But his last game, against Salford City on February 16, saw Hardcastle substituted because of illness.

Barrow said that, following that game, investigations into the matter “uncovered an issue with his heart”.

“Following the diagnosis of his condition, Lewis underwent a procedure to treat it,” the club added.

“However, after further consultations with cardiologists, he has received medical advice which has, devastatingly, left him unable to continue his career.”

Barrow said they were “saddened” by the news.

They also said they are rallying behind the player, saying: “The club is doing everything it can to support Lewis and his family at this very difficult time and further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.”

Hardcastle has been with the Holker Street club in 2019, joining permanently after an impressive loan spell from Blackburn.

He has made 69 appearances for the Bluebirds, including many as captain.

He was a key figure in the side that last season won the National League title under Ian Evatt.

Barrow had in recent weeks not divulged the extent of Hardcastle’s condition as he underwent the assessments that established the seriousness of the problem.

The Bolton-born player, who came through the youth set-up at Blackburn, also had loan spells at Salford City and Port Vale before his switch to south Cumbria.