DONCASTER Rovers’ boss Dean Saunders has lost out to Chesterfield on centre-back Sam Hird - one of the out-of-contract players he was hoping to keep.
The 24 year-old Doncaster-born defender, who played 164 games for his hometown club after being signed from Leeds United in 2007, told The Star late last week that he had been approached by two other clubs but that his preference was to remain at the relegated League One club.
But with no offer of a new deal having been made by Saunders, whose plans for next season are on hold until he moves at least a couple of his high-earning contracted players - Hird admitted that he was giving serious consideration to the other offers.
After being contacted by Hird’s agent on Friday, and briefed as to the current situation, Saunders rung Hird on Saturday morning to make him an offer, but it fell some way short of the two-year deal offered by Chesterfield boss John Sheridan, who also plans to make Hird his captain next season.
“The gaffer (Saunders) was really good with me and did make me an offer,” said Hird speaking to The Star over the weekend. “But he said at this moment he couldn’t make me an offer that was anything near what the other interested clubs were offering me.
“It was a tough decision to make (to leave Doncaster) but when you are out of contract and you’ve got two good offers from other clubs and Dean Saunders couldn’t make me an offer that I wanted at this moment in time, in a sense it was made for me.
“He said it wasn’t just me. He said he was hoping to make other (out-of-contract) players better offers but wasn’t able to do so until he gets other players off the wage bill.
“But I’d had a couple of good offers and I wasn’t prepared to wait that long.
“I could have stayed on at Rovers and just picked up my money and toddled along next season but I think I’d have been doing myself an injustice. At 24 I want to be playing regularly I think I’m ready for a fresh challenge.”
Hird, who was also interesting another League One club, admits to initially being reluctant to drop down into League Two after four years in the Championship with Rovers.
But he added: “I met John Sheridan, who showed a lot of interest in me - he told me he has tried to get me on loan last year when I was out of the team - and he made me a good offer.
“He also told me which way he wanted the club to go and that matched my ambitions.
“They were relegated from League One last season, despite finishing strongly, and hopefully they’ll be one of the teams challenging for promotion next season.
“He said he is going to make me captain, which was one of the deciding factors over the other offer I had as well, as was the fact that he wants to play me at centre-back.
“It’s a new challenge for me and one which I am looking forward to.”
Although excited about the move to Chesterfield, Hird said that he had enjoyed his four years at the Keepmoat Stadium.
“There have been a lot of of highlights during my time at Rovers - obviously the main one beating Leeds at Wembley in the League One Promotion Play-off final,” he said. “Another was the run we went on the second half of our first season in the Championship after we’d got off to a poor start.
“The fans have always been good to me and I’d like to thank them. To be voted the Supporters’ Player of the Season during my time at Rovers was something very special.
“Being a Doncaster lad I do wish Rovers all the best next season. I’ve always got on with the rest of the lads and I think they’ll do well in League One and I wish them the best of luck.
“I’d also like to thank the chairman and Dean Saunders and all the staff, because he played me in most games and helped me with my progression.”