Seldom has a Carrow Road departure been met with the level of almost universal love that accompanied the announcement that Max Aarons had completed his move to Bournemouth.
I say almost, because the good folk of Leeds have been wishing all sorts of misfortune on Max but those who haven’t been spurned by him have been pouring good wishes and warmth in his direction.
Of recent times, only the departure of James Maddison to Leicester was met with a similar level of bonhomie, with the common denominator being that both had outgrown our football club – a fact acknowledged by the City faithful.
The only real difference was that Maddison didn’t hang around as long.
Max, bless him, did, through no fault of his own, stay longer than was ideal and reached the point in his Norwich City career where he was no longer progressing. In fact, for two seasons he had stagnated, suggesting that, in truth, the time to depart should have been when his stock was at its highest – in the summer of 2021.
Hindsight and all that.
But Max is a clearly a good egg. Not once has the dummy been spat out. Not once did he try and force a move – not even when European giants reportedly came calling. And not even when he watched his peers depart for Premier League pastures and Premier League contracts.
First to go, in the autumn of 2020, was Jamal Lewis to Newcastle and was soon followed by Ben Godfrey to Everton. Max sat and watched and while he’d have had every reason to question when it was his turn, he did nothing of the sort.
Instead, the head was down, the effort was relentless and he did what he’s done since he made his debut at Portman Road in September 2019 – he worked hard, he listened and gave his all.
He then watched on as Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell threated to down tools at the start of the 2020-21 season, when both considered themselves deserving of a big move. He was too but caused not a moment’s fuss.
As we now know, eventually those two were placated sufficiently to play big parts in the Championship-winning campaign of 2020-21, but it was only ever an uneasy peace, with both still looking to depart once the title was sewn up.
Emi succeeded in making it to the Premier League that summer, Todd didn’t – albeit 18 months later did make it to the Rangers of Glasgow – but still the opportunity didn’t fall for Max. Still, he did the Max thing. No dummies, no tantrums, no protruding bottom lips.
Despite his tender years, he was the ultimate professional throughout although, in truth, his professionalism and decency may have been contributing factors to the plateau in performance level. He reached the point where his game didn’t improve.
And then Dean Smith came along and strangled the life out of it. He wasn’t alone – as a squad, it’s only now emerging from that particular shadow.
But this summer had to be Max’s time and after lots of toing, froing, negotiating and again – especially on Max’s part – patience, the offers of an acceptable nature started to come in.
In the end, it sounds as though three were on the table, including one from Daniel Farke’s Leeds, where Max was either due for or was having a medical but he was deserving of a Premier League contract. And so we wish farewell to another of the Farke era.
In typical fashion, Max’s parting message oozed class.
And so today at 3:00pm he’ll be wearing red and black stripes. No longer one of us. But he’ll not be forgotten in a hurry.
That right flank won’t be the same without him for some time.
He’ll be remembered for being a good right-back – one who was part of a side that could win the Championship for fun – but even more important than that, he was a thoroughly decent human being.
Go well down south, fella. You’ve more than earned that chance.