Forest Green Rovers captain Carl Winchester has signed for League One side Sunderland for an undisclosed fee.

The 27-year-old has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Black Cats, bringing his three year stay at the New Lawn to an end.

Winchester made 108 appearances in all competitions for Rovers – and scored 11 goals during his spell at the club.

The Belfast-born former Northern Ireland U21 international joined from local rivals Cheltenham Town in 2018.

Tributes have been paid to the fan-favourite, know as 'Winniesta', after his departure was confirmed on Sunday.

Head coach Mark Cooper said: "Carl has been fantastic for us during his time at the club and I have gone on record saying he is a Championship ability player.

"He was out of contract in the summer and of course we wanted to keep him. But, once you hear that Sunderland are interested, with all that it brings, how can you not let that happen.

"It's another player that we've managed to sell on - and we wish him well. Let's hope it's not long before he's playing in front of 40,000 supporters at the Stadium of Light.

"Carl is a quiet leader. He leads by example and from the very moment he arrived at Forest Green, you could tell he was a player with real quality. This all came out of the blue, but we wish him nothing but the best.

Chairman Dale Vince added: "Winnie’s been an important player for us, I’d like to add my personal thanks and best wishes to him."