Paul Hayes says it was a “tremendous honour” to be captain of Wycombe Wanderers and hopes the club can achieve its League 1 dream after leaving the club last night.
The striker departed Adams Park by mutual consent after three years in which he played a huge role on and off the pitch as the club embarked on two cup adventures and reached the play-off final with Hayes leading the line.
He moves on to pastures new but says he’ll always look out for the club’s results after developing a close bond with his team-mates, staff and supporters over two spells – one on loan in 2012, and the second after signing permanently two years later.
“The club has meant a lot to me and I’ve worn the badge with pride," he said on Tuesday evening. "Being captain has been a tremendous honour, so it’s hard for me to leave, but that’s football and these things happen so you roll with it. It’s been an absolute pleasure to play for Wycombe.
“Sometimes as a player you don’t develop an affection for a club and it’s not very often you get it at two clubs, but for me, I had it with Scunthorpe being my first club, and I now believe I’ve got two clubs. Wycombe is my club, and I’d like to say thank you to the fans for all of their support, through the good times and bad.
"It’s been a rollercoaster but they’ve been fantastic for me, accepted me as their captain, spurred me on and I’ve tried to give everything I could. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me and for giving me such a great three years.”
Wanderers have found themselves in promotion contention in each of his three seasons and Hayes believes the foundations are in place for another attempt this time around.
“The world’s your oyster – there’s a fantastic setup here with the training ground and some great young players coming through who are willing to learn and knuckle down,” he said. “There’s also the older lads who are excellent professionals, and the manager and coaching staff know their stuff and tactically understand every club and how to play against them.
“The club has come a long way in three years in terms of its facilities and finances, and it’s grown massively as a club. I think the league is a little weaker than last year so anything is possible, but if you don’t put the hard work in then you don’t get rewards.
"I think the club can reach the play-offs and go up this year and I really hope they do – I’ll be looking out for every result because I’ve made a lot of good friends here and I want to see them climb the table and do well.”
With over 600 career appearances under his belt, Hayes says he’s not finished yet, and hopes to prolong his career in the game elsewhere:
“I don’t know what’s next right now – all I want to do is play on as long as I can, and I still feel I can play. It needs to be the right situation, so I’ll have a good chat with my family and work things out.
“It’s a strange time after being here for so long, and having a big involvement on and off the field was an honour for me, so I’ll take some time away, regroup, and see what’s right for me.”
Look out for more of Paul’s reflections – including THAT day at White Hart Lane – plus the thoughts of his team-mates in Saturday’s edition of Parklife.