Chris Kirkland is a model professional, a true gentleman and will be missed by Sheffield Wednesday.
In his three-year spell at Hillsborough, the former England international provided a calm, reassuring presence in between the sticks.
Off the pitch, Kirkland was a friendly, charming individual. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.
But after several weeks of weighing up his options, Kirkland has decided his future lies away from South Yorkshire, turning down a one-year contract extension.
Kirkland said: “This has been a really tough decision and one that I have mulled over through the summer but I have decided to move on. I want a new challenge at this stage of my career. Everyone loves to play first team football and I am no different.”
Following Wednesday’s promotion to the Championship three years ago, Kirkland was snapped up on a free transfer from Wigan Athletic. His stellar performances saw him named player of the season in 2013 as the Owls preserved their second-tier status. Injuries and loss of form affected Kirkland the following year and the 34-year-old struggled to force his way into Stuart Gray’s plans last year.
Kirkland made 91 appearances in Wednesday colours, but only started eight times during the 2014/15 season due to Keiren Westwood’s outstanding form.
The Leicester-born ace has paid tribute to Owls’ coaching staff and fans.
“I would like to thank all the staff who have been so supportive in my three years with Wednesday and wish the new head coach and the new chairman nothing but the very best,” he said.
“And, of course, I would like to thank the fans, who have been different class and I hope to see them at the other end of the field soon.”
Kirkland’s departure leaves new Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal with a big decision to make. Does he dip into the transfer market to find a replacement or will he place his faith in youth?
Joe Wildsmith has come through the ranks, represented England at Under-20 level and made his senior debut while on loan at Barnsley earlier this year. If Wildsmith or Cameron Dawson are not promoted, it arguably does not send out a positive message to the rest of the Owls’ academy players.
One thing is for certain, Kirkland will be an excellent signing for someone this summer.