Manager Keith Hill says Joe Rafferty deserves the opportunity to go and play Championship football.
The full-back joined second tier Preston North End on Wednesday, after a six-and-a-half year stay at the Crown Oil Arena.
Hill thanked Rafferty for his contribution to the Dale cause, and although he didn’t want to lose the 25-year-old, he admits he couldn’t stand in his way.
“I’ve got to thank Joe because he has been a great servant for me and for the Football Club,” said Hill.
“The chance to go to the Championship is probably the only chance that he’s had since he has been at the Club.
“It came out of left-field from my point of view – I got a phone call from Peter Ridsdale asking would we consider selling Joe.
“It was something we didn’t really want to do. We – myself, the Chief Executive and the Board of Directors – contemplated it and it still didn’t fit right, but then the next day Joe knocked on my door to tell me that he knew about the opportunity.
“It’s bittersweet with Joe. There’s a smile on my face because it is great reward for everything that he has been through.
“We’ve been through some difficult times with Joe during his time at the Football Club but also some brilliant successes and now he has got the opportunity that every player wants, to play at a higher level.”
“I couldn’t stand in Joe’s way – it’s not my style. He has been a great servant and he’s honest.
“He basically said that he wanted to go to Preston and that’s the football word that we live in. He knew about Preston’s interest and he deserves the opportunity to go and play in the Championship.
“Everybody wants to pit their wits against better opposition and play in the highest league they possibly can, and when this chance came, Joe was determined to make it happen.
“He was out of contract at the end of the season and we would have lost him then for no fee. We struck a good deal with Preston for a transfer fee.
“Joe deserves this move. He has been brilliant for me and brilliant for the Football Club. It’s nobody’s fault – it’s just footballing business.”