Dundee captain Darren O’Dea has been left “surprised” and saddened by what he believes was Neil McCann’s decision not to become permanent manager.
McCann steered Dundee clear of relegation after his five games in charge but will return to his job as a TV football pundit.
“I fully believed he would be in charge next season,” defender O’Dea told BBC Radio Scotland.
“I’m really disappointed because he was fantastic for us.”
Dundee’s statement announcing McCann’s departure did not specify a reason but said they had continued to seek a permanent manager during his tenure.
O’Dea spoke to McCann following the announcement and believes that the 42-year-old’s loyalty to the broadcaster overshadowed his desire to be a manager.
“He will be a manager, but his loyalty maybe to Sky overtook that,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“I think his reasons are solely on the fact that he had maybe agreed with Sky.”
But O’Dea thought that McCann’s behaviour suggested that he was planning for the future – even attending under-20s games to assess future talent.
“If you are only coming in for five games, why would you bother?” the 30-year-old told Sportsound.
“The way Neil McCann went about business, he certainly didn’t come in half-hearted.
“But I can completely understand and respect his decision and all I can do is thank him.”
Dundee turned to their former midfielder following the sacking of Paul Hartley after they slumped to second bottom thanks to a run of seven defeats.
They won their first two games under McCann and drew the next and O’Dea dismisses the suggestion that two subsequent defeats led the interim manager to have a rethink about staying.
“I can’t answer that, but I would say absolutely not,” said the Dundee captain.
“We lost a very good manager in Paul Hartley and it didn’t look great for us, but Neil did a fantastic job and I really thought he would stay on.
“He did things beyond what he needed to do, which is probably the reason I thought he would stay on.”