BEN Davies has sent a message of thanks to Chester City fans still reeling from the devastating blow dealt by his unexpected switch to Shrewsbury Town.
The midfielder says the Blues will always have a special place in his heart, despite the fact he will now be plying his trade for one of their closest rivals.
'It was the hardest decision of my life but sometimes the decisions you make will be unpopular,' admitted Davies, who celebrates his 25th birthday tomorrow.
'I loved every minute at Chester. I love the place and the lads, and the chairman and Mark Wright were superb.'
Davies' Chester contract was due to expire this summer and, despite being offered new terms, he instead agreed to pen a three-year deal with the Shrews.
The Birmingham-born ace admits he agonised over the move, mainly because of an earlier pledge to City fans that he would not join a rival League Two club.
League One outfits Northampton Town, Port Vale, Bristol City and Yeovil Town were in the hunt for Davies - so why did he go back on his promise and opt for a switch to Gay Meadow?
'To be honest I thought I was going to a League One club,' he said. 'But having seen them all and weighed it all up, and had advice from people within football, I thought Shrewsbury was the one that suited me.
'It's only half an hour from my home in Walsall and everything at Shrewsbury was first-class. Everything was pointing towards there.
'It was just a case of whether I could do it, with playing for Chester for so long. But sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions when it comes to your future and your family.'
Davies joined Chester from Kidderminster Harriers four years ago. He played 47+4 games last season, scoring eight goals, and was a firm favourite with the Saunders Honda Stadium faithful.
Versatile, industrious and always fully committed, he will take some replacing.
'I understand that some fans will be disappointed with the fact I've gone,' added Davies. 'When I was at Chester, 95% of the fans were brilliant to me. At times, it was them and chats with the chairman Stephen Vaughan that kept me there when I was at my lowest.
'They were superb and I can't thank the fans, the chairman and Mark Wright enough.
'But I'd been there for four years and felt it was time to move on. I wanted to be closer to home.'
When asked to single out one highlight from his time with the Blues, Davies says every game was important to him.
'I've had some absolutely great times with them,' he said. 'I gave everything I had for them for the four years I was there. My life revolved around the club and I lived for playing for Chester.
'It will be disappointing for the fans to see me go and rightly so but I had to come this decision for myself, for footballing reasons and for my family as well.
'It will feel strange playing against Chester next season.'
Davies' departure was particularly hard to take for Chester fans, given the fact that Chester's player of the season Stewart Drummond and keeper Chris MacKenzie have also been added to the Gay Meadow payroll since the end of the season.
Drummond, MacKenzie and Richard Hope - another ex-Blue in the Shrewsbury ranks - are rumoured to have had a major influence in convincing their former team-mate to sign for them, but Davies insisted: 'It was all to do with myself.
'Obviously, Hopey, Drums and Macca are there and they were all ringing me but the decision to go there was down to myself.
'It was the hardest two weeks of my life but I had to come to a decision in the end.'
Davies can expect a rough ride from City fans when he turns out for the Shrewsbury against Mark Wright's men next season - but he has one wish.
'You have to move forward and move on and I wish Chester all the best,' he said, before adding: 'Hopefully Shrewsbury and Chester can both get promoted next year.'