EMOTIONAL Alan Bennett described his 18-month spell with Cheltenham Town as "short but incredibly sweet" after leaving the club just before Thursday's transfer deadline.
The Irish defender completed his move to AFC Wimbledon yesterday and will now be doing his utmost to keep the London club in League Two, having spent the last year and half trying to take Cheltenham up out of it.
Captain in all 73 of his appearances for the Robins, Bennett said he will look back with immense pride on his Cheltenham career as he reluctantly agreed to bring it to a close.
"It's been an almost perfect year and a half at Cheltenham and I can't express enough gratitude for the way the fans and everyone at the club have been with me," Bennett said.
"The messages I've had since leaving have been touching and I feel what I've done at Cheltenham has been a good job, but it could have gone sour if I'd hung around.
"It's been an incredible time and I'll never forget Wembley, Tottenham, Everton, the Torquay play-off matches or the Hereford FA Cup replay win.
"I have loved it and it felt like home."
Cork-born Bennett was contracted until the end of this season and he had gone on record as saying he would stay as long as his services were required.
But boss Mark Yates made it clear to him last week that he did not feature in his plans, leaving Bennett with one of toughest decisions of his career.
"I didn't want to leave, but I don't to be somewhere where I am not valued," he said.
"I originally said on twitter I was staying to fight for my place and that was the case at the time, but I don't think I'd have been a nice person to have around.
"It's hard on a Friday when you know you are not going to be involved the next day, but there is certainly no hassle between me and the gaffer.
"He said he wanted to go in a different direction and it's his job to make those calls.
"I am disappointed, but there is no anger or blame."
Bennett, 31, regularly came out on top in Cheltenham's aerobic fitness testing at the University of Gloucestershire.
He was inconsolable after last season's play-off final defeat at Wembley, an occasion that summed up his desire to win and hatred of losing.
"Wembley was tough, but I am still proud of what we achieved last season," he said.
"I wanted to give it a shot, get back in the team and finish the job off, but I couldn't afford to waste two months sitting around and it's a short career."
Bennett's final appearance for Cheltenham was the televised FA Cup third-round tie against Everton, which the Premier League club won 5-1.
The former Republic of Ireland international will now return to Whaddon Road with Wimbledon on March 2.
He was keen to thank the backroom staff at Cheltenham, particularly senior sports therapist Ian Weston.
"Weso has been unbelievable and the amount of time he has put in with me is incredible," Bennett said.
"Everyone at the club, especially Steve Book and Jason Murphy, have also been great as has Ian Hutton, who I have been doing extra work with in the gym.
"We were all it together, staff, players and fans, and it's been a brilliant time in my life."