The referee checks his watch, raises his whistle to his lips and gives it three sharp blasts to end the match. I stride over to my opposite number Grant Murray and shake his hand before walking towards the Auxerre fans in the away end of Easter Road. Raising my hands above my head, I heartily applaud them for the final time. Their reception is distinctly mixed.
I continue to make my way slowly around the perimeter of the pitch, still applauding the Auxerrois faithful. Some of them sing my name and applaud back, smacking their hands together with all of their might. Some of them, from what I can tell a vocal minority, boo me for what they feel is a betrayal against their club. A plastic bottle comes flying narrowly wide of my upraised arms, but I continue to applaud.
A few of the Auxerre players, obviously reading the atmosphere, rally around me and join in in applauding the fans. Hicham Aidir wraps an arm around my shoulders and pumps his fist towards the crowd, shouting something in Arabic. Their presence prompts a cheer from some of the fans.
The players are understanding. We’re a close knit bunch and I think they know how big an opportunity this is for me. I may even end up taking a few of them with me, although I’d rather not if I can help it. I really would hate to break up this Auxerre side. As far as I’m concerned, this is goodbye LeGod, goodbye Phil, goodbye Captiste, goodbye Joël and… My stomach clenches uncomfortably… Goodbye, Hicham.
My very first Auxerre match was a Ligue 2 relegation scrap away against local rivals Troyes and my last, over 3 years later, has been away at Hibernian; The goalless and pretty eventless first leg of a Europa League qualifying match. But now I have to go. I need to do this. I am the next domino to fall in a chain that I began myself during the Euros.
This is goodbye, Auxerre, but not forever.
We will meet again.