DAVID Wheater admits that the decision to leave Middlesbrough was one of the toughest of his life.
The 23-year-old yesterday completed his protracted move to Premier League Bolton Wanderers for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £2.3m, and could make his debut against champions Chelsea on Monday night.
And Wheater, who was out of contract at the end of the season, says he didn’t want to wait until the summer and see the club miss out on a transfer fee.
“The supporters have been brilliant with me,” said the Redcar-born defender.
“I think they understand why I had to leave to further my career, and they also know that the club would benefit financially, the money will help the manager strengthen the team.
“I could have stayed until the end of the season, but then Boro would have received nothing for me. Boro have got some money now and I hope that helps the club move forward.”
He added: “I have been at Boro since I was 10 years old, and all my family and friends are up here.
“It’s been one of the toughest decisions of my life. I always said I would stay at Boro, but football is my job and you have to do what’s best for your career.
“And from what I’ve seen at Bolton there is a really great atmosphere at the club and a real buzz about the place and I’m looking forward to working hard and showing the manager what I can do.”
And Trotters boss Owen Coyle said: “First and foremost we are absolutely delighted to get a player of David’s quality into Bolton.
“The hunger that he has shown in wanting to come to the football club has been first class.
“There has been a lot of competition for his signature and again this shows a willingness on our behalf to invest in young players.”
Meanwhile, Boro welcome Preston North End and new manager Phil Brown to the Riverside Stadium tomorrow (kick off 3pm).
Tony Mowbray could recall Tony McMahon in place of the departed Wheater in defence but is otherwise expected to name the same side which enjoyed a 4-0 victory at Bristol City last weekend.
That means Hartlepool-born Andrew Taylor, back from a loan spell at Watford, could continue in midfield.