Craig Brown has quit as Motherwell manager little over 24 hours after pledging his continued allegiance to the club following an approach from Aberdeen.
Motherwell confirmed the resignation of both Brown and assistant Archie Knox after they reopened talks with Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne. Brown is now set to be named Aberdeen manager in time for the Dons' Scottish Premier League clash against Hearts on Saturday.
A strongly-worded statement by Motherwell criticised Aberdeen's behaviour and expressed surprise at their now departed management team's decision.
It read: "We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of our management team to leave the club at this time and in this way. But it is not in our ethos as a club to stand in anyone's way that wanted to be somewhere else. We also have far too much respect for Craig and Archie and what they have achieved in the game to do anything other than wish them happiness in what they are setting out to do and to thank them for their efforts in the last year. It is very difficult to understand their decision but we must respect it.''
The statement went on: "Separately we do wish to make clear that as a Board we believe that the conduct of the board of Aberdeen in this matter has been wholly inappropriate and in clear breach of SPL rules as well as basic courtesy. At no point did they inform us or seek our permission to speak to critical employees of our club and to seek to entice them to leave our employment.''
Motherwell have reported the Dons to the Scottish Premier League after they recruited their second successive manager from Fir Park, the previous one being the recently sacked Mark McGhee.
The statement added: "We realise the desperation they are feeling and the pressure they are under from their fans for their own performance as a board but to go about their business in this way is a matter of gross discourtesy. It is also conduct which is beneath the integrity we would expect of a club of Aberdeen's stature. We hope Aberdeen's fans will reflect on that and understand our need to do something about it. We have raised this matter with the SPL and will pursue the matter vigorously and by all means.''
Motherwell insisted they had done everything possible to keep their management team, who have been in charge for less than year and were working without contracts despite the club announcing they had agreed 18-month deals early this year. And the clearly-emotional author of the statement finished with a rallying cry for fans who have been stunned by the 70-year-old's departure to a team sitting six places and 13 points below Motherwell in the SPL.
"To all Motherwell fans everywhere, we ask for you to rally round the club as you always do and we will work together to keep punching above our weight and obtaining the success we all seek,'' it read.
"This club is bigger than any manager and for that matter any board. As fans we will always be the people who care most about this club for the long term. Loyalty is clearly all too rare in football but we know we have it in ourselves for the club we love. Motherwell is a special club from a special place as anyone touched by us knows well.''
Brown held brief and informal talks with Dons chairman Stewart Milne on Tuesday but Motherwell and their manager himself announced the following day that the approach had been rejected. But the former Scotland manager wavered at some point late on Wednesday night following another approach from Milne and quickly completed an extraordinary U-turn.