KEITH Southern says it is “gut-wrenching” to be leaving Bloomfield Road.
The 31-year-old signed for Huddersfield last night after the clubs agreed a deal of around £300,000.
And after ten years at Blackpool, the midfielder admitted it was one of the toughest decisions of his life.
He told The Gazette: “I’m leaving with a heavy heart and I’m leaving behind some of the finest people I could ever wish to meet.
“Most of the dressing room at Blackpool will be friends for life.
“I’m leaving behind some magnificent people. I had to make a decision that was best for me, my family and my football future, and it just felt right.
“I don’t think there would be many other clubs I’d have left Blackpool for.
“Everyone knows how much respect I have for Simon Grayson (Huddersfield manager, formerly with Pool).
“Time will tell whether it’s the right decision but I’m getting a lot of positive vibes from Huddersfield.”
His testimonial on Sunday week at Bloomfield Road against Everton will go ahead as planned.
And Southern had a message for the Pool supporters.
“I’ll never forget them,” he said. “The support they’ve given me over the time at Blackpool has been unbelievable.
“Blackpool’s fans are the finest in the country. I’ve had a brilliant rapport with them over the past ten years and it will be really, really sad when I say goodbye at my testimonial.”
Southern, who had surgery to remove a tumour last season, made over 300 appearances for the Seasiders.
He joined from Everton in August 2002 and has been a virtual ever-present since.
“Blackpool has been a huge part of my life,” he added:
“It was a bolt out the blue when the opportunity came along but after a lot of thought I decided that it might be good for me at this stage of my career.
“I’m going to a newly promoted club for a manager I know well.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of new fans with new expectations.
“It will be very strange walking into another club and wearing a different shirt.
“But it’s a new challenge and one I’m really looking forward to.”
Southern will go down as one of Pool’s most influential players.
He joined the club under Steve McMahon in League One and won two promotions, including a man-of-the-match display in the famous win over Cardiff, to fire the club into the Premier League.
And that’s the moment which stands out for Southern.
He revealed: “Promotion to the Premier League has to be the highlight really.”
“It wasn’t just the day at Wembley – the Forest semi-final was really special.
“Even the whole lead-up to it – we went on a magnificent run and that has to be the highlight.”
He arrived at Bloomfield Road on an initial one-month loan deal along with his now Huddersfield team-mate Peter Clarke.
The loan was first extended to three months before he signed a long-term deal with the club.
And despite some of his 24 goals for the club being hugely important, it was his first which sticks out the most.
“I was just a kid coming from Everton. I’d been out with a cruciate knee ligament injury for a whole year.
“The move to Blackpool was probably make-or-break for me. It would prove if I’d make a career in the game or not.
“I took a chance coming to Blackpool and they took a chance on me.
“So to score a left-footed volley from a corner kick and win 3-0 was a very big moment for me.”
Blackpool and Huddersfield have an agreement which will allow Southern to play the first and last 15 minutes of the game against Everton.
In most testimonials the profits from the day go to the player, but in typical Keith Southern fashion he has revealed he’ll be giving large chunks of the cash to two charities close to his heart – testicular cancer and Brian House.
“I didn’t want to outstay my welcome,” Southern revealed.
“I’ve left the club in a fantastic position and it will be sad to go, but I had to think about my future.
“Hopefully I’ll get a decent reception against Everton because I want to say thank you to all the fans for what they’ve given me.
“In ten years at the club I couldn’t really ask to achieve any more.
“I’ve played in the Premier League and had two promotions with the club.
“It was more to do with my career and my family’s future.
“It’s gut-wrenching to be leaving but I’m excited by the challenge.”