GARY Liddle has revealed that “it was time to move on” from Hartlepool United – but has thanked the club for what was a “very good” contract offer.
The 25-year-old took a week to mull over the offer of a new deal but informed Pools officials late last week that he would not be putting pen to paper.
That led to Saturday’s news that Liddle, along with Nobby Solano, had been released from Victoria Park.
There was some speculation that the Middlesbrough-born star had been offered a derisory deal and had therefore chosen not to sign.
But the player contacted SportMail to put the record straight and thanked the club’s hierarchy for their offer, instead revealing that he feels it is time for a fresh challenge in his career.
In an exclusive interview, Liddle told us: “I’ve got to say that the offer the club made me was a good one – and that is both for Hartlepool United and League One level, if I’d wanted to stay I would have looked for the nearest pen.
“I always wanted to be offered a new deal, I was pleased with the terms and had no complaints over that, but I took a little time to think about it.
“In the end I’ve decided that it’s the right time for a fresh start and it’s probably the right time to move on.
“I’ve been at Hartlepool six years now and I’ve had a fantastic time.
“I’ve developed as a player and a person and for that I thank every manager and coach I’ve worked with – it’s a great club and I’ve got a lot to thank them for.
“But there comes a time when you’ve got to think about something new.
“All I’ve known is living in Middlesbrough and playing for Hartlepool – I want to experience something different, as a footballer and a person.
“I hope the fans understand that because during my six years they have been brilliant with me.
“I can honestly say that their support has been fantastic and has been a huge help.
“So I wish the club and the supporters all the very best for the future, I leave with nothing but happy memories and good things to say about them.”
Liddle has been a firm favourite among supporters since joining on a free transfer from Middlesbrough in 2006.
He went on to make 284 appearances, scoring 21 times, and had been a mainstay of the side under several managers.
Last summer saw the club exercise their option to extend his contract by one year and there had been speculation then of an approach from his former club Boro.
And it is now the Championship upon which Liddle has set his sights.
“I’ve got a very good CV behind me and that’s thanks to Hartlepool,” he said.
“So I’ll have to see what happens these next few weeks but I’d like to think that I could play at a higher level and test myself there.
“I’m at an age, 25, where I need to look at everything and I just think this is the right time to move on for the good of my career.”
Meanwhile, belated confirmation of Solano’s exit also arrived on Saturday after we revealed in February that he had played his last game for the club.
He is now back in Peru ahead of a testimonial match in his honour.