It has been the honour of my career to have played for this great football club for the last 13 years but today I must begin saying goodbye.
Before I go any further I should make it clear that my entire focus over the next few weeks will be on doing everything in my power to get us back to the Premier League. To where this club and its fans belong.
Though it may not come as a massive surprise to many, I thought it best we clarify the situation now, before we begin playing the final nine games of the season. We cannot afford to have any distractions from our goal.
When I left Sheffield Wednesday to join Albion in 2007, it was a tough decision for me to make. I had finally settled in an area I liked and my wife Cathy and I had made some good friends. We’d also just found out we were expecting our first child, Charlie, who was due in May 2008, so we were nervous about upping sticks and moving to another new environment. We couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome at The Hawthorns, not just by the staff but also the supporters.
Fast forward 13 years and I find myself getting emotional as I write this statement thinking back over all the good times we have shared. From promotions under Tony Mowbray and Robbie Di Matteo to consistently holding our own in the Premier League under Roy Hodgson, Steve Clarke, Tony Pulis and others.
There was, of course, the disappointment of two relegations, a defeat in the FA Cup semi-final, and losing out in the Play-Offs last season. But the highs - which include scoring goals to help us get promoted and win the Championship in 2008, becoming captain of this great club in 2011, and realising my dream as a young boy in Belfast of playing in the Premier League - have always far outweighed the lows. There are too many memories to mention from my 400-plus games and I will treasure them for the rest of my days.
To all the staff, both past and present, based at the training ground and the stadium, many of whom have been here longer than me, thank you all for everything you have done for myself and my family. Thank you to Richie Rawlins and the medical team for tirelessly helping me over the years, especially after my knee injury in 2016. Martin Swain, Ian Skidmore and the media team who have (most of the time) helped me say the right things!!! Jill Pearson for dealing with all my Amazon parcels and looking after myself, Cathy, Charlie and Zach. Jean Wright and all the staff in the canteen. I will miss you all very much.
To all the players I have had the pleasure of playing alongside, many of whom remain good friends, it’s been a privilege and I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as I have.
To all the coaching staff and managers thank you for everything you have taught me over these 13 years. I like to think I have given everything on the training field and in matches in return for all of your guidance.
A big thank you to my family and friends for their love and support in helping us settle into the area which will now forever be our home. It is appreciated more than you will ever know.
To my wife Cathy, and boys Charlie and Zach, for your love, support and patience over the years. I’m happy to have been able to share all these great times with you. And to my mum and dad, thank you for everything along the way, and for following my time at Albion so loyally.
Last but by no means least, to all the Baggies fans out there. Win, lose or draw you have always supported me and for that I will be forever grateful. Thank you for allowing me to become one of your own. Please know I will always regard this as my club. I wish I could go on forever here but sadly all good things must come to an end. Hopefully, when all is safe and well, I’ll be able to come to The Hawthorns to show my appreciation to you.
For now I will do all I can to help us get promoted to the Premier League and I’ll be ready if the manager needs me. After that, I hope, a new challenge awaits elsewhere. It will be strange to play for another club after all my years at Albion, but I still feel I have plenty to offer, and there’s a bit of football left in the tank yet!
All the best,