JACK Colback thanked Sunderland fans for the backing they gave him at the Stadium of Light - after leaving the club for derby rivals Newcastle United.
Colback has become the first player in 22 years to make the switch from Sunderland to Newcastle.
The Tynesider will formally join United, the team he supported as a boy, on July 1 when his Stadium of Light contract expires.
And the 24-year-old, a product of Sunderland’s Academy, knows that moves between the two clubs are invariably contentious.
However, Colback – the first player to make the switch north since Paul Bracewell in 1992 – is hopeful that Sunderland fans will “understand” his decision.
The Killingworth-born will always be grateful for the opportunity he was given on Wearside – and the backing he got from the club’s supporters.
“I’ve only got good things to say about Sunderland,” Colback told SportMail.
“They gave me my chance and I want to thank the fans and the club for all their support. I hope they can understand the chance I’ve had here to move to my boyhood club.
“Maybe there’ll be a few who will wish me all the best, and there’ll be others who’ll call me all the names under the sun.
“But all I can do is thank them for all the support they gave me when I played for Sunderland.
“I felt like I gave my all. It’s your job as a professional footballer to give 100 per cent every game.
“This opportunity came came along to play for the team I supported. It wasn’t one I was going to let slip. I hope they can understand.”
Sunderland were keen to keep Colback – who also had offers from a number of other Premier League clubs – at the Stadium of Light, but the two parties couldn’t agree a new deal last season.
And United made in-demand Colback an offer which led to him reluctantly calling time on his career on Wearside.
Colback says the uncertainty over his future didn’t affect him last season as he and his team-mates fought to stay in the Premier League.
And he was just glad that Capital One Cup finalists Sunderland stayed up.
“To be honest, the majority of speculation was online and I didn’t really see any of that,” he said.
“I was concentrating on doing a job for Sunderland.
“The club had a difficult season and was in a difficult period.
“I knew I was probably going to be leaving at the end of the season, and I didn’t want to leave with it having been relegated.
“I wanted to leave it on a relative high.
“The club achieved that, and now the next step of my career was to come here.”