Preston North End club captain Tom Clarke is to leave the club when his contract ends later this month.
The Lilywhites skipper, who was signed by Simon Grayson in the summer of 2013, led the side to Wembley glory in 2015 and made almost 250 appearances in his seven years with PNE.
After joining from Huddersfield Town, Tom soon wrote his name in the club’s history with his late winner against Blackpool in only his second competitive game in a lilywhite shirt and he became a popular figure amongst the players and fans, being voted as one of the Legends of the Town End in 2018.
The Halifax-born defender paid tribute to the club, the staff and the fans and made it clear, he would be back for a proper goodbye when the stadium was allowed to open again.
He said: “I have been proud and privileged to play for this club and to captain it for a number of years. I have made a huge number of friends here and I would like to thank everyone at the club and the supporters for the way my family and I have been treated during my seven years at Deepdale.
“I leave on good terms with everyone, which not everyone in the game can say when they move on and I look forward to having an opportunity to come back when fans are allowed back inside the ground to say a proper goodbye.
“It will always be a very special moment for me to say that I climbed the steps at Wembley to be captain of the team that finally ended the club’s Play-Off hoodoo and I will always enjoy being the person ‘who put the ball in the Blackpool net’!
“I wish the players, the management staff, the administrative staff and the fans the best for the future. This is the best group of players I have had the privilege to play with and I have no doubt they will do everything they can to get the club into the Premier League, something I think everyone would be deserving of. I will be watching every game I can and cheering them on.”
As part of the club’s retained list, issued to the EFL, it was also confirmed that Paul Gallagher had extended his current contract for the remainder of the season, whilst Connor Simpson, Jack Armer, Kevin O’Connor and Michael Crowe would all leave as of June 30th.
The submission also included the second year scholars, with Ethan Walker, who signed his professional contract earlier during the year, the only one of the second years to remain at the club.
The owner’s representative Peter Ridsdale said: “We are all very sad to see Tom go. He has been a fantastic servant to the football club and we wish him all the very best in his future career. He leaves us with some fantastic memories, having been someone who left everything out on the pitch in every single game he played.
“He epitomised the warrior spirit needed to succeed as a defender and we look forward to giving him an opportunity to come back and say a proper goodbye to the fans who he has served so well during the past seven years.
“We would also like to thank all the other players who are leaving the club for their efforts. It is a difficult time for everyone in football and these are tough decisions, but they are made in the best interests of the club and we wish everyone leaving us this month the very best in their future careers in the game.”