The decision to end 20 years with the Dons was such a tough call Peter Pawlett admits he will probably “shed a tear” when he finally leaves Pittodrie.
Yet however painful it was, Pawlett insists rejecting a new Reds deal in favour of MK Dons was the right decision for his career.
Pawlett was offered a new two-year deal at Pittodrie and a testimonial – but opted to sign a two-year pre-contract with the League One side.
Pawlett’s imminent exit is significant as he is the first boss Derek McInnes wanted to retain but lost during his four years at the club.
Pawlett said: “I will probably shed a tear when I leave because Aberdeen has been a huge part of my life.
“My family is here and I have spent most of my life at the club, since I was six or seven, and I am now 26.
“It was a tough decision and I took a long time thinking about this. I talked to my family and my parents about it.
“But it is a new lease of life for me and a new challenge I am ready to take on.”
Pawlett’s move was an issue of head over heart. Having been with the Reds since six years old, the emotional bond is there – and will remain.
Yet there were other issues that forced his hand to move south of the border. MK Dons were the more attractive proposition at this stage in Pawlett’s career.
The lure of regular first-team action was pivotal as he has made just seven starts this season. The ambition and potential at MK Dons under boss Robbie Neilson to rise up the leagues were also key.
That won’t lessen the pain for Pawlett when he wears that Dons shirt for the last time – ideally in the Scottish Cup final on May 27.
“An ambition of mine has always been to go down to play in England,” he said.
“This feels like the right time in my career to do that.
“I am 26 now and have not had a huge amount of game time at Aberdeen in the last couple of years.
“That was also a big factor because as a footballer you want to play games.
“Sitting on the bench is not what you want to do so that was a huge factor in my decision as well.
“I have watched games in League One and they are more open which should suit me more as I will be able to open my legs up.
“That is what Robbie said to me, to go and be the player I can be on the pitch.
“To express myself, create chances and score goals.”
There are similarities between Pawlett’s move and that of Ryan Fraser in 2013.
Fraser also rejected a new deal to sign for a League One side, Bournemouth, so convinced was he of the potential to progress at the club.
The Cherries are now in the English top flight, with Fraser one of their stand-out stars.
Pawlett travelled to the MK Dons’ 30,500 capacity Stadium MK and was sold by former Hearts boss Neilson on the imminent completion of a training complex.
“I talked with Robbie and MK Dons chairman (Pete Winkelman) and liked what they had to say,” he said.
“Their enthusiasm and the belief they have that the club can go up the leagues attracted me down there.
“Their stadium is unbelievable and their plans for the training ground have been confirmed now and it will be ready for next season.
“MK Dons are building for the future and I could see the potential there. They have been up to the Championship and came back down. Robbie wants to get back up there.
“Everything is in place in terms of facilities to do that. Robbie wants to get a team in place to push on and do that.”
Having made more than 200 appearances for the Reds, the midfielder will officially join MK Dons during the summer.
Until then he is ready to give all he can for the Reds.
He said: “I will work my socks off for the rest of the season and be a professional about it. We still have second place in the Premiership to get and also the Scottish Cup semi-final and the chance to get to the final. It would be a brilliant finish if we could do that.
“There is so much more to look forward to here and hopefully I can play as much a part of it as I can.
“I was happy to start against Partick and pleased with my performance. Despite signing for MK Dons hopefully I can play against Motherwell, but I respect the manager’s decision whatever way it goes.”
Pawlett suffered League Cup final heartache in 2014 when he missed the win over Inverness due to injury.
In tribute to the midfielder the Red Army adopted the Human League song Don’t You Want Me – chanting Peter Pawlett Baby. It became such an Internet sensation the song re-entered the charts.
Pawlett said: “I have had some really great times here and the Peter Pawlett Baby song will always be special.
“I would like to thank the Dons fans for everything and want to wish every one of them the best for the future.
“And thanks for the song.”