Paul Heckingbottom joined First Division Norwich City yesterday and wasted no time in explaining his decision to leave Darlington after three seasons.

The last 12 months of his Darlington career were turbulent but after putting pen to paper on a three-year contract with the Carrow Road club, he said the off-the-field problems at Feethams had nothing to do with his departure.

"All the stuff that happened away from the pitch was irrelevant to me joining Norwich," he said.

"I'd made my mind up I wanted to leave a long time ago because I wanted to play in the First Division.

"If all the off-the-field stuff hadn't happened I still would have been looking to go to another club because I wanted to play higher up."

Burnley were also interested in signing the 24-year-old who leaves Feethams on a Bosman free transfer.

He said: "I was out of contract on June 30 and knew that one or two clubs were interested and had been watching me but Norwich were the first club to come forward and make a concrete offer and once I'd seen their facilities I wanted to sign for them.

"No disrespect to Darlington but Norwich have a great training ground.

"The treatment room is quality too - but I won't be too bothered if I don't see much of that!" said Heckingbottom, who suffered from groin injuries last season.

After initially joining on loan from Sunderland in 1999, Heckingbottom made 132 appearances for Darlington and scored six goals, including a strike at Villa Park in the FA Cup against Aston Villa while, against Leyton Orient last September, he notched arguably Quakers' best goal of the campaign.

Heckingbottom will be sorely missed at Feethams. The left-back proved his quality when injuries to other players forced him into central defence, where he looked equally at home.

He begins his Norwich career behind Adam Drury in the left-back pecking order.

Two years ago Drury played for Peterborough against Quakers in the play-off final at Wembley, when Posh won 1-0 to end Darlington's dream of Second Division football.

* Carlisle central defender Stuart Whitehead has been linked with a free transfer move to Feethams.

Reports in Northumbria say the 25-year-old Carlisle captain, who is interesting Oxford United, is set for talks with Tommy Taylor.

Read more about the Quakers here.