MARC Laird has revealed leaving Southend United was the hardest goodbye he has ever had to make in football.
The 28-year-old midfielder has been released by the Shrimpers after making 48 appearances in a 19 month spell with the club.
And Laird admitted his departure had been tough to take.
“I kind of had an idea that I wouldn’t be getting a new deal but I was still gutted to be told because I loved every second of being with Southend,” said the Scotsman.
“I settled in from the first minute and it really is a great club.
“Everyone connected with it – from the chairman to the ladies in accounts – are just so very friendly and the lads are fantastic too.
“I’ve made some great friends during my time and get on very well with the likes of Ryan Leonard, Barry Corr, Luke Prosser and Ben Clarkson, the physio.
“I was also very settled at Millwall and it was hard to leave there but this was probably the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to make.
“That’s football though and it’s time for a new challenge for me now.”
Laird, who signed from Leyton Orient initially on loan in October 2012, kicked off last season in fine form, starting three of the first four games.
But the former Manchester City trainee then sustained a knee injury against Northampton Town which kept him sidelined for almost three months.
After that, Laird made the starting line-up just seven more times during the remainder of the season and was frustrated about his lack of first team football.
“I obviously would've wanted to play more but it was hard because everyone in the midfield was playing really well,” said Laird.
“It was probably the most difficult area of the team to try and get in to so it was frustrating for me.
“But I really took to Southend and it will definitely always have a real place in my heart.”
And Laird was also keen to thank the Shrimpers supporters, who according to an Echosport poll, wanted him to remain at Roots Hall.
“It's the first club I've been at where the fans sang my name which was really special for me,” said Laird.
“They were always great towards me and I also remember the really good reception I got when I came back from my injury against Mansfield.
“I wish everyone connected with the club all the very best for the future but it's time for me to move on now and look to my own future.”
But Laird does not yet know where he will be playing next season and is instead concentrating on spending time with his family.
“It's time for me to see them because they're in Manchester and I couldn't see them as much as I wanted when I was in Southend,” said Laird.
“That's all I'm thinking about right now and I'm leaving everything else to my agent to sort out.”