Former Don Gary Dempsey today insisted players turning their back on the Premiership for the lower leagues is not only about money.
Dempsey reckons the lure of the English Championship, League One and even League Two offers a fresh challenge and a change from the monotony of facing the same teams four times in a league campaign.
The 38-year-old Irishman knocked back an improved two-year deal from Aberdeen in 2007 to move to League One Yeovil Town for a pay-cut. He wanted a change and to test himself in another country.
Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie rejected the offer of a lucrative long-term contract from Aberdeen to move to Derby County on a three-year deal.
Dempsey said: “I can understand why people leave Scotland to go down to England.
“A lot of people think that players leave the Scottish top flight for the money, but I was actually on less money at Yeovil than I would have been at Aberdeen.
“It was nothing to do with the money at all, I just fancied a change. That was my reason for leaving.
“Jimmy (Calderwood) wanted to keep me and there was an offer of a two-year extension.
“I had been playing in the SPFL at that stage for seven seasons and you play every team four times and on top of that you can also face them in the cup.
“You can end up playing a team five or six times in a season.
“Whilst it was great playing against Celtic and Rangers, it started to get a bit monotonous.
“I just felt I needed a change of scenery. I went down to Yeovil and there were a lot of big teams in League One at that time.
“When people ask why players leave the Scottish Premiership for the English League One or Championship, sometimes all they want is a change of scenery.
“They want to play against different teams and experience different stadiums. A lot of the time there are bigger crowds down there as well.”
Aberdeen have lost a number of players to the English lower leagues in recent years.
Scotland international Kenny McLean joined Norwich City last year and this season won promotion to the top-flight, having played a key part in the Canaries winning the Championship title.
Anthony O’Connor (Bradford) and Ash Taylor (Northampton Town) also rejected new deals to sign on at League One sides.
Taylor is set to return to Pittodrie, having had the final year of his three-year contract at Northampton terminated recently by mutual consent.
Dempsey said: “I decided to go to England and give it a bash even though I loved Aberdeen.
“I went down to Yeovil and stayed for only eight months before getting the chance to go back home to play.
“We had been away from Ireland for 12 years and we had just had our son, so we decided to go home where I had five good years before I retired.
“My time at Aberdeen was amazing and I probably shouldn’t have left when I did.
“I probably should have stuck around because we had European football the following season.
“However, you live and die by your decisions.”
Dempsey opted to leave Pittodrie in summer 2007 when the club had secured qualification for the UEFA Cup.
Under manager Calderwood, the Dons would qualify for the group stages where they faced La Liga side Atletico Madrid and secured a memorable 4-0 win over FC Copenhagen at home.
That win secured qualification from the group and a last-32 showdown with Euro giants Bayern Munich. Following a 2-2 draw with Bayern at Pittodrie, the Reds lost 5-1 in Germany.
Dempsey would, however, go on to star in Europe with St Patrick’s Athletic, his home city club.
He said: “Missing out on that European campaign with Aberdeen was a regret because you want to play in those big games against the big teams.
“However, when I was with St Pat’s we had a really good Euro run and played teams like Steau Bucharest and Hertha Berlin.
“It would have been good to stay on at Aberdeen and in hindsight I probably should have.”
Aberdeen secured European action for a sixth successive season under Derek McInnes at the weekend.
They will enter the Europa League at the first qualifying ruond stage on July 11.
Dempsey said: “To qualify for Europe for six successive seasons is absolutely huge for Aberdeen.
“I believe there is a new stadium in the pipeline as well, so there are lots of good things happening at the club.
“They have a good manager and a good group of players.
“The league is getting very competitive again as Rangers are back and Kilmarnock were strong in the recent season.
“It will be a very competitive league… which makes a change.”
Dempsey, who now runs his own fitness company, was back in Aberdeen for the first time since leaving the Dons in 2007 as he participated in a charity match at Cove’s Balmoral Stadium.
The event, which finished 7-7, raised vital funds for Cash For Kids.
“I keep an eye on Aberdeen’s scores,” he said.
“One of the things you miss when you retire is the dressing room and the banter.
“I hadn’t seen some of them in 10 years, boys like Kevin McNaughton and Darren Mackie.
“Seeing them again was brilliant.”