Jonathan Smith and Conal Platt quit Forest Green Rovers
TWO of Forest Green's most influential players last season have quit the club.
Midfielder Jonathan Smith and winger Conal Platt are to join Blue Square Premier rivals York City and Cambridge United respectively, despite being offered new deals at the New Lawn.
The departure of both Lancashire-based men had been widely expected, given Rovers' tight budget for next term, although boss Dave Hockaday had hoped last week's reprieve from relegation might persuade them to stay put.
Smith, 23, arrived from Morecambe in July 2007 and went on to become a fixture in the centre of midfield under both Jim Harvey and Hockaday.
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He was Forest Green's top scorer last season with nine goals in all competitions and briefly captained the side, although he will unfortunately be remembered for a miss from four yards at Grays Athletic on the final day which left him devastated.
Smith said: "To leave Forest Green is the hardest decision I have ever had to make.
"I was proud to captain the club and I'm sad to leave, but York is closer to my Preston home and – with Conal leaving – the thought of travelling two-and-a-half hours on my own would have been hard.
"My move to York is down to Forest Green and Jim Harvey. I am grateful to (director) Mike Bullingham and the fans who supported me through thick and thin.
"I grew to like Dave Hockaday and he taught me a lot and improved me as a player."
Liverpool academy product Platt, also 23, has spent two seasons at Rovers after spells at Bournemouth, Morecambe, Weymouth and Rushden and Diamonds.
Though enigmatic, his skill and set-piece prowess made him a firm favourite with supporters.
He said: "I was looking to stay on and the reprieve from relegation made my decision difficult but, no disrespect to Forest Green, Cambridge are a big club and the money and offer of a two-year deal was just too good to turn down.
"The gaffer spoke to me on the phone for 45 minutes and tried to talk me into staying.
"I like him and he gave me a lot of confidence and I like to think I played well under him and before with Jim Harvey.
"I had a great time at Forest Green and I would like to thank the fans, staff and director Mike Bullingham."