JAMES McArthur said an emotional goodbye to Wigan Athletic on Monday night – but doesn’t think it’ll be long before he sees his old pals again in the Premier League.
The Scotland midfielder completed his £7million move to Crystal Palace ahead of the transfer deadline, becoming the Eagles’ most expensive signing of all time.
He’d seen a proposed transfer to Leicester fall through at the end of last week, meaning one last appearance in Wigan colours against Birmingham at the weekend.
Fittingly he put in a man-of-the-match display as Uwe Rosler’s men won 4-0, but admits when the opportunity arose on Monday to join Palace, he had to take it.
“It was the right thing to do for my career,” he told the Observer, within minutes of putting pen to paper on Monday night.
“When the chance came to get back in the Premier League with Crystal Palace, I had to take it.
“You never know what’s going to happen in this game. You never know if you’ll ever get a chance like this again.
“I’m not just in it for myself – everything I do is for my wife and my little girl, and it’s something I had to do.
“Having said that, I’m leaving behind some great friends and great memories at Wigan.
“Like Hamilton, Wigan will always be in my heart, and I hope to be playing against them in the Premier League next season.
“I certainly think their squad is strong enough, and under Uwe they are definitely going in the right direction.
“I hope they can do it for the people at the club – the gaffer, the chairman, the staff, the fans, everyone.”
Players come and go all the time in football, but McArthur admits the family atmosphere at Wigan is one he will massively miss.
“It’s always been about the team spirit at Wigan, and as a player it’s great to have that,” he explained.
“It’s about the people, and I’ll really miss everyone both on and off the pitch – people like Graham Barrow.
“It’s always sad to say goodbye to people like that, people who have helped you along the way. I had four years with him and he just helped to make things easy for me.
“From day one you’re given all the support you need and I’ll never forget that.
“It’s hard to take in...not the leaving people behind, but knowing that you won’t see the same faces any more.
“You’re not surrounded by work colleagues at Wigan, you’re surrounded by mates, and that’s hard to come to terms with.
“On the plus side I won’t see Mike Pollitt as much – and that was one of the deciding factors in me going! But seriously I spoke to him on Monday and he wished me well.”
McArthur leaves with just one regret – that he didn’t say a fitting farewell.
“In hindsight I would have loved to have known that Saturday was going to be my last game, so I could say goodbye properly,” he added.
“I went round the ground and was the last off the pitch but it was only really half a goodbye. You don’t know what’s going to happen and it could have fallen through.
“But it would have been nice to have said a proper goodbye and thanked everyone for everything they’ve done for me.”