CHEY Dunkley thanked Oxford United for the opportunities given to him in the last two and a half years as he became the latest player to move on.

The centre back signed a three-year deal with Wigan Athletic, who will play again in Sky Bet League One following relegation from the Championship.

It is a blow for the U’s, who felt they had tabled Dunkley a competitive offer to stay.

But the 25-year-old instead became Paul Cook’s first signing for the Latics.

While he was clearly keen to move on, the defender, who made 96 appearances for the U’s after signing from Kidderminster Harriers in 2014, left a farewell message on his Twitter account.

“So much to say, but we’ll keep it professional,” he wrote.

“I’d like to start by thanking everyone associated with Oxford United FC including the staff, players and the fans during my time at the club.

“The last couple of years have been exciting and given me memories I’ll forever cherish.

“I am very thankful to be a part of the journey on the club’s way up, and also the opportunity that was put forward by the club.

“I really have made true friends and I generally wish every success to all at Oxford United in the near future.”

Dunkley is the third regular from the 2015/16 promotion-winning season to depart in the past week.

Liam Sercombe was bought by Bristol Rovers, while Joe Skarz’s contract was terminated by mutual consent before he moved to Bury.

Dunkley’s decision was different, with United still keen to keep the 25-year-old.

The Oxford Mail understands he had turned down three separate contracts since Christmas, the last of which was in the region of doubling his wage from last season.

The lack of progress in negotiations prompted head coach Michael Appleton to leave out the defender in the run-in.

Loanee Charlie Raglan was given a chance to stake a claim and with the centre back a free agent after being released by Chesterfield, Dunkley’s exit may see United renew their interest.

With Skarz also moving on, strengthening the back four will be a priority for Appleton.

As it stands Curtis Nelson is the only fit senior specialist centre back, with Aaron Martin’s recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon expected to continue into pre-season.