Local boy Will Hayhurst has flown the Preston North End nest with Simon Grayson believing it was in the best interests of his career to seek pastures new.
Hayhurst, who scored in Grayson’s first three games as Lilywhites boss, joined Notts County this week for a small fee on an 18-month contract.
Had North End waited until the summer to decide on his future and not offered him a new contract then, Hayhurst would have got dragged into the ‘rat race’ of competing with hundreds of players for new employers.
“It was a tough decision to let him go because Will is a lovely lad who has come through the ranks,” said Grayson.
“He has been a real joy to work with every day – he scored some goals for us and put in good performances.
“Over the last few months Will has not got the regular football which he wanted. That is why he went to York on loan last season.
“Other people have gone past him in the pecking order and going to Notts County is a good opportunity for him to get first-team football and for us to look after him as well.
“We could have waited until the summer to decide if to offer him a contract or not.
“Had we not offered him a deal, that would have meant he would be in the rat race of all the players who would be out of work and looking for clubs.
“I suppose it is where we are as a club, that we have maybe moved forward to a different level and maybe Will hasn’t been able to stay with us, in terms of personnel we have brought in.
“That is no disrespect to him because he has worked extremely hard.
“When I have put him on during a game or he has started, he did everything possible to try and cement a place in the team.”
Hayhurst’s best run at North End came in the 2012/13 campaign.
He got a decent chunk of action during the early part of that season, then John Dreyer brought him back into the starting XI for the Bournemouth game, which he oversaw as caretaker boss.
In Grayson’s first game at Swindon in February 2013, Hayhurst found the net.
He did likewise in the next two against MK Dons and Stevenage.
A goal which the Longridge lad will be fondly remembered for in the 2-0 win over Oldham in April 2013.
With the Oldham keeper stranded upfield after joining the attack for a corner which was cleared, Hayhurst took possession and ran from his own half before slotting the ball into an unguarded net.
Grayson said: “Will is a good lad and very popular in the dressing room – he will do well.”