Trevor Carson today thanked fans for the “overwhelming” response to his departure from Hartlepool United.
The 29-year-old left Pools yesterday for Motherwell in his desire to play regular international football with Northern Ireland.
Carson told SportMail he wanted to stay at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium to help the club come straight back into the Football League.
But the former Sunderland keeper said, ultimately, if he wanted to play for his country he could not do it via the National League.
“I am confident we’ll bounce straight back,” he said.
“The decision I had to make was not a no-brainer.
“It was really tough, I love Hartlepool, the club for what they have done for me and the fans for their brilliant support.
“I’ve never had this affection for a club in my career.
“I was part of a team which took a great club out of the Football League and I felt a responsibility to stay and bring us back.
“It was not a straight-forward decision and it had nothing to do with money, I have taken a bit of a hit by leaving.
“Hartlepool offered me a good contract and have been brilliant all the way along.”
But Carson explained it was his international dreams which prompted him to join the Scottish Premier League outfit.
He has been a member of the Irish squad while with Pools but was not included in the Northern Ireland squad travelling to Azerbaijan for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier.
Carson had come back ahead of schedule to play the final two do-or-die matches for Pools at the end of the season.
He had little to do in the defeat at Cheltenham but had a good game in the dramatic win over Doncaster Rovers on the final Saturday of the season in a match shown live on TV and one his international management team would have watched.
But Carson was excluded, as he explained.
“Michael [O’Neill] named a squad two days after we were relegated and I wasn’t in it,” he said.
“That was a bit of a statement.
“To be honest, he told me after I was relegated with Cheltenham that I would not be considered.
“Northern Ireland don’t pay my wages, but it’s my dream to play for my country.
“At the moment, things are going well for Northern Ireland and I want to be a part of that.
“It’s not going to be easy at Motherwell, but I need to back myself and give it a go.
“I would understand if fans were upset at Pools that I left.
“But I think 99% of people in my position would have made the same decision.
“The response from supporters has been overwhelming.”
Carson joined Pools in the summer of 2015 following Cheltenham Town’s relegation from the Football League.
He was desperate to return to the North-East to spend more time with young daughter, Katiya.
His debut season got off to a false start when he was injured days before the League Two programme started but when he did get going, his form was outstanding.
So much so, he walked away with four player of the year awards.
Carson says he will remain forever grateful to the club and fans for his time at the Vic.
“I can’t thank the supporters and the club enough,” he added.