TOWN owner Ken Davy insists the decision to let Jonathan Stead leave for Blackburn was taken "very reluctantly indeed."
The man who saved the club from financial ruin in the summer rejected three bids from Blackburn and repeated overtures from Sunderland before bowing to mounting pressure.
That pressure came from Blackburn, with a final improved offer, and from the 20-year-old striker who did not want to pass up the opportunity of a four-and-a-half year contract which will make him a millionaire.
"We could not have tried harder to keep Jonathan at the club and this has been very hard," said Mr Davy, who will free-up some cash for manager Peter Jackson to secure a replacement.
"This is the most difficult year for the club financially because of the massive debts we took over and, indeed, a third of any payments we receive in the transfer market go immediately to the PFA towards paying off the old players.
"Despite that, we rejected several offers for Jonathan Stead in an effort to keep him at the club but, over the last couple of days, it has become clear from Jonathan's representatives that he felt this was too good a move to miss and, in the end, it would have been futile in the circumstances to try and keep him here.
"We were reluctant - very reluctant indeed - to lose him, but the pressure from the player's representatives and from Blackburn reached such a stage where we couldn't resist any longer."
Fans will inevitably draw parallels with the departure of Marcus Stewart to Ipswich four years ago, when Town subsequently failed to reach the First Division play-offs.
"It is self evident this has been a difficult decision and we know the fans will share our disappointment," said Mr Davy.
"Having said that, none of our ambitions have changed with regard to the future.
"We have significantly increased spending on the Academy and also on our original wage budget, despite the debts facing the club.
"We have done that with the aim of ensuring we have a very strong club going forward at every level and our objective is still to go for promotion in our first year.
"Considering where we were last summer, it would have been inconceivable to think of Town challenging for promotion this term, but that is what we are doing and we will try all we can to help Peter to add to the squad as he sees fit.
"If the appropriate player becomes available then fine but, as ever, there is no blank cheque."
Sources in the north east suggest Sunderland may have eventually offered more than Blackburn but that Stead - whose agent John Seasman has been at the centre of negotiations - rejected the First Division club for a move to the top flight.
"The fact we rejected Sunderland's £800,000 offer in October was a clear signal that we wanted to keep Jonathan at the club," added Mr Davy.
"I am sure the bulk of supporters appreciate that fact, especially when the financial traumas we have had here mean that every penny and every pound is very important to us.
"Sadly, we couldn't be confident of receiving the cash which the Survival Trust collected from people to help the club and, in a re-structured deal like the one which is on the table from Blackburn, factors like that count.
"It is vital, of course, that people come down to the match on Saturday against Darlington and give our young team their full support.
"We have done the best possible deal we can for this club in the circumstances and it's vital the fans continue to get behind us."
Mr Davy refused to reveal details of the transfer, but added: "It should be clear from previous offers we turned down that the structure of this one will make it in excess of seven figures."
He continued: "Jonathan has been a consummate professional all through and we wish him well."