Motherwell stunned by Craig Brown departure

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The Independent Football

A stunned Motherwell board are seeking a new manager and sanctions against Aberdeen after Craig Brown resigned just 24 hours after pledging his continued allegiance.

The former Scotland manager and assistant Archie Knox are set to be appointed by Aberdeen before their Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash against Hearts tomorrow following a dramatic U-turn.

Motherwell announced on Wednesday that their management team were staying despite holding talks with Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne.

Brown insisted he only met Milne "out of courtesy" while stressing it would be a huge wrench to leave Fir Park.

But, with strikers Nick Blackman and Alan Gow out of contract next month, he also appealed for funds to at least maintain the strength of his squad, and clearly was not satisfied with the response.

Brown rejoined Motherwell less than 12 months ago, initially on an interim basis following the sacking of Jim Gannon, and looked set to finish his coaching career where it began in 1974.

Instead the 70-year-old has swapped the challenge of securing Motherwell's fourth successive European adventure for an immediate fight at the bottom of the SPL.

Motherwell stopped short of criticising Brown but the author of a long and emotional statement, released moments before midnight, made no secret of the hurt his departure has caused.

"We are surprised and disappointed by the decision of our management team to leave the club at this time and in this way," it read.

"But it is not in our ethos as a club to stand in anyone's way.

"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.

"We have done absolutely everything we could to keep them and to support their personal ambitions and demands for a bigger player budget."

But Motherwell did not hold back when commenting on Aberdeen's role in the drama.

Although Brown and Knox were working without contracts, despite the club announcing they had agreed 18-month deals in February, SPL rules forbid clubs to approach employees of another team without consent.

The statement continued: "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.

"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."

The statement finished with a rallying cry to Motherwell supporters.

"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 and Knox, who enjoyed unprecedented success at Pittodrie as Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant, will have to perform considerably better than the last management team to leave Fir Park for Pittodrie.

Mark McGhee and assistant Scott Leitch lasted just 18 months and leave their successors with a confidence-drained squad sitting joint-bottom of the SPL having collected just four points from their last 13 games.

McGhee appeared to misjudge the state of both clubs' financial muscle when making the move - he soon baulked at the cost of a loan deal for Lukas Jutkieiwcz shortly before the then Everton striker signed on at Fir Park.

But Brown said yesterday: "Aberdeen said we could turn over some players.

"They have a budget the same as everyone else and if we were bringing people in, some would have to go.

"But I think there would be a bit more flexibility than we have at Motherwell."