"I cannot thank West Bromwich Albion enough"
“This is a new chapter for me and that is exciting but Albion have been such a massive part of my life that it is a strange feeling to suddenly not be there.
“There really are a lot of emotions involved. I’m going to miss the Club – it’s been a great ride. Everyone says it goes by in the blink of an eye and it really is so true.
“I can remember like yesterday my first game and I’ve been really proud to be part of West Bromwich Albion. It feels good to leave with the Club doing so well. You want to leave feeling that you have been part of something good, something you will always be proud of.
“The Club has come a long way from when I signed and it was still, in those days, a yo-yo club. We were relegated in that first year but came back up straightaway and we’ve grown and developed every year in every way since then.
“There’s a very different mentality there now. I felt from the start it was a warm club, a family club and I fell it has kept those qualities. But it is so much more professional in every way now - the facilities, the staff working there in every department - you can feel it is a big club now.
“Eight years ago, we couldn’t dream of signing Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans and now we can. I’m sure it will keep progressing and establish itself as a top 10 club in the Premier League which is what it should expect.
“My highlights are clear in my mind. That first game I mentioned - I signed on the Wednesday during an international break and so it was the Friday before the players were all back in to train for the game. I remember going to The Hawthorns for the first time and the stadium and crowd was so much bigger than what I was used to.
“I had one suitcase I had brought with me from Holland and was living out of it that weekend. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but we won 3-2 - I remember the feeling, a great afternoon, great support and everything kicked on from there.
“I loved the derby games too and I guess the stand-out must be the 5-1 at Molineux especially as I managed to score. We won 2-1 at Villa Park after that when I also scored and I can recall another in a win against Birmingham with ‘Fozzie’ in goal – I always enjoyed reminding him of that! I was lucky to score in derbies, maybe that’s why I loved them so much.
“Promotion was a great feeling and was a testament to how well the Club was run. We managed to keep the squad together, released a good manager but recruited another good one in Robbie and were in the hunt from the ‘off’ really. It was important for a lot of us; I was 25/26 at the time and for other lads such as Brunty and Mozza it was key moment in their careers too.
“But we got up and and we’ve been up ever since.
“I also remember my first time at Old Trafford. I was a bit of a Manchester United follower and to step out there you definitely know you are in the biggest league in the world. In those days, we maybe went there not expecting to do well and what I love now is that we go to those grounds knowing if we do what we can well, then we can beat them.
“And I want to say a special farewell to the fans because they have been brilliant over the years. They travel all around the country to follow us and I have always felt appreciated and welcomed. I like the fact that we have had our rows – they have criticised me and I have criticised them. But that’s what happens when you are passionate about something and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I think that happens when people like each other in any relationship; it’s because you care so much. One of the main reasons I was always happy to stay at West Brom and in England was because everyone cares so much about their club. That’s what makes English football so popular and I have loved being part of it.
“All of this has happened so quickly that I have left the Club without having a chance to say ‘goodbye’ to so many people. There’s some team mates there like Brunty, Mozza, Fozzie, G-Mac and Claudio who I have known a long time and shared so much with.
“But all the staff too – I will get back at the first opportunity to come and say a proper farewell. I also intend to get back to The Hawthorns as a Baggies supporter and say a proper farewell to the fans.
“For now, I can only send my thanks to everyone at Albion. In the last few days, the Club has been brilliant sorting out this transfer – I want to publicly thanks Richard Garlick, Simon Carrington and Vanessa Gomm in the legal offices who have worked really hard to get it completed. The gaffer, too, has been in touch and been brilliant for me.
“It has been an amazing time in my life. I cannot thank West Bromwich Albion enough and it will always be such a special club for me. Always. I hope to see you all soon and wish the Baggies every bit of luck for the rest of the season and for what lies beyond."