Interview: Richard Stearman bids an emotional Wolves farewell
Richard Stearman has said goodbye to Wolves after eight years at the club and declared: "I wouldn't change it for the world."
The centre half, who made 254 appearances in gold and black, has returned to Fulham after Wolves elected against making his loan move a permanent one.
Stearman made a shock return on loan last summer after initially leaving in 2015. In his time at the club he won two league titles, played for three seasons in the Premier League and won the player of the year award in 2014/15.
While gutted that he won't be staying at Molineux the 29-year-old had nothing but praise for the club and its fans – and has pledged to return as a fan in the South Bank.
Stearman told the Express & Star: "The support and love over the past couple of days has been overwhelming.
"My social media has been going crazy. Everyone knows how I feel about the club and it's nice to get the response I have from the players and staff.
"It's something I'm really proud of and my family is happy with too."
The defender only played 19 times this season, twice under Walter Zenga and then 17 for Paul Lambert.
However despite an indifferent campaign for the team he's been pleased with his performances – and said his comeback was all worth it for that unforgettable FA Cup moment at Anfield when he put Wolves in front inside one minute.
"Anfield is probably the highlight of my career minus the trophies and the awards," Stearman said.
"Individually it was the greatest feeling I've had in any shirt...too be able to score at Anfield in front the Kop for Wolves with my family there – it was worth coming back just for that.
"It's been great to come back this year and get a crack at putting on the shirt again.
"When I've played I've been happy with how it's gone. We might not have picked up results which is why I was out of it for a few games
"I feel I was unlucky not to play a few more games – I would have liked to have played more but it was great to put the shirt on again and I think I've played some of my best stuff in a Wolves shirt.
"I'd like to thank Kevin Thelwell and Fosun for bringing me back last summer. I'm gutted it's come to an end – it was never going to last forever and it would have been great to extend it but that's football.
"It's upsetting but that's the way it is. Both parties move on and I'll never have a bad word to say about anyone at the club.
"It's the club I love and there's no animosity whatsoever. I wish everyone the best for the future – I would have loved to extend my stay but it's not to be."
Stearman now returns to parent club Fulham where his future is unclear, although he's unlikely to be short of offers from Championship clubs should his time with the Cottagers be at an end.
And while his Molineux stay is over Stearman has vowed to return to Wolves as a supporter – or even as a coach.
"I'd love to come back as a fan," he added. "I'll be up in the South Bank at some point if I'm welcome.
"I'm still pretty local so I'll get down to games and you never know maybe I'll be back for a coaching role in the future.
"To think I've played 254 games for such a big club, played in the Premier League, won titles, won a player of the year award...I've achieved a lot throughout my Wolves career, never mind my total career.
"It's been amazing for me. I'm very proud of it and so are my family.
"It's been an honour every time I've pulled on the shirt and to get another crack at it this year was such a big thing for me.
"It was also nice I could say some goodbyes this time as last time (in 2015) it was during the season.
"The fans have been great with me. It's been a bit up and down at times in the past but they know what my feelings are for the club and that I gave everything whenever I played.
"As a local lad as well it's amazing for me to walk away with such love and respect from them. That obviously goes both ways.
"They've been brilliant and I can't thank them enough.
"Playing for Wolves has been a great part of my career. I wouldn't change it for the world."