Chorley forward Darren Stephenson is ready to test himself at a higher level after joining National League club Tranmere Rovers for a club-record transfer fee.
It is understood a number of clubs were eager to secure Stephenson’s signature but the 23-year-old Jamaican has opted to move to Tranmere on a two-year-deal for an undisclosed fee.
Former Bradford City academy player Stephenson joined the Magpies from Southport in 2012, racked up 157 appearances and scored 62 goals in a four year spell.
The striker says the National League North side will have special place in his heart but that the opportunity to test himself at a higher level was something he could not turn down.
He said: “I’m very sad to be leaving the club. The coaching staff, board and fans have been unbelievable.
“Of course, the decision was a hard one but I feel now is the time to progress in my career and test myself at a higher level.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and not rushed into anything.
“I’ve made lots of memories but the last game of the season against Buxton in 2014 will always stick out - even though I didn’t play. I was proud to win the league with Chorley and help take them into the National League North.
“The fans have always stuck by us and I’d personally like to thank them all. The support we receive has been fantastic and hopefully everyone will get behind (manager) Matt Jansen and the lads during this up and coming campaign. I’m positive the club will be successful and Chorley will always have a special place in my heart.”
Assistant Manager Jamie Vermiglio says the club wish Stephenson all the best but added that they have already started looking at a replacement and have held discussions with a number of strikers.
He said: “He’s been a tremendous player for us, especially last season. He had a bad injury the year before and came back looking strong, earning himself a contact and working really hard for the club. He’s always scored goals and it will be a shame to lose him.
“Although as a club we’ll never stand in anyone’s way if they want to better themselves. Darren is definitely capable of playing in the league above and Janny has had such a positive impact on his football.
“Looking at the season ahead we are always looking to strengthen and we are targeting one more striker.
“It’s key to have options, especially if we play with three up top and there’s a few people we are in discussions with at the moment.
“We’ve already met with a few because we knew Darren leaving would be inevitable. Although it’s key not to rush into anything and we’ll have to see how things go.”