Bolton Wanderers and ex-England defender Zat Knight leaves the Reebok after five years

The Bolton News: Zat Knight Zat Knight

WANDERERS club skipper Zat Knight is leaving the Reebok after five years.

The big defender, signed for £4.5million from Aston Villa in 2009, is targeting a “fresh start” after being told by the club he would not be offered a new deal.

Dougie Freedman will announce his official retained list this morning, with Knight’s exit being confirmed alongside that of Chris Eagles, Tyrone Mears and Arran Lee-Barrett.

Speaking to The Bolton News, Knight thanked fans for their support during a Bolton career that has seen him make 190 appearances in all competitions.

“I’m leaving – I’ve had an up and down five years but this is the end of the chapter,” he said.

“The decision was more financial, with what was going on at the club, and I fully understand that.

“I feel I have come to the end of the road here and I need a fresh start.

“I played a lot of football here and was disappointed by the relegation. I signed a new deal hoping to get back up because it didn’t sit well with me having a relegation on my CV, but it hasn’t happened and I move on.

“I feel I have got longevity in me. I feel I can play on for three or four years, so we’ll see what goes on next.”

Knight, pictured, has found his first-team opportunities limited this season as Matt Mills, David Wheater and Tim Ream vied for his position at centre-half.

And the former England international says the decision to leave the Reebok was based more on the potential lack of chances he would get next season than the finances on offer.

“The manager said to me ‘I won’t embarrass you by what we can offer you, you are a senior pro, and where we’re going we’re going to have to loan a lot of players and get young ones in,’” he said. “Financially the club can’t keep people on decent wages – but it isn’t about the contract really. I said to Dougie myself that I need a fresh start. I need a new goal. I’m not saying I finished things here because there are a lot of things I’d change but there have been times this season that I have felt I played well and then not played the next game. That has been frustrating.

“I’ve sat out games this season because of the poor form I’ve been in. I’ll hold my hands up – that’s no problem.

“The manager has wanted to play the players who have got a contract next season, so that is fine.

“I hope that I can continue playing and get to where I want to be.”

Dyed-in-the-wool Aston Villa fan, and Birmingham boy Knight had received plenty of pre-match banter in the build-up to Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Lee Clark’s City.

His final appearance was as a second-half sub as Freedman looked to see the game out at 2-1 – a result that would have meant certain relegation for the Blues.

But Knight insists he would not have celebrated had he helped Bolton cling on to the win.

“A few Villa fans I know asked me if I’d celebrate if I scored or if they’d have gone down and I promise you I wouldn’t - only because of the way things have happened for them,” he said.

“I’m not a selfish person, there are loads of jobs that would have gone if Birmingham had been relegated.

“I am from the city too, and I want to see it thrive. You can’t be petty about football when it comes to things like this.”

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