Robbie Neilson insisted he wouldn’t have left Dundee United for anyone other than Hearts – then killed off Dundee’s hopes of signing Christophe Berra.
Neilson shocked Tangerines fans by taking charge at Tynecastle just weeks after leading United back to the Premiership.
And he insists his beloved Hearts – whom he served with distinction as a player and a head coach – are the only club he would have made that move for.
“It was a big decision for me and a difficult one too, to be honest with you, because I had a great relationship with everyone at United – the fans, the players, the staff,” he said.
“But, when I got that phone call, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to come back to Hearts.
“I’ve been here as a player, been here as a manager. I know what the club’s like and I know how far I can take the club because they’re in a position to really build and kick on.
“It was a tough one to leave Dundee United, having enjoyed a great experience there.
“But, when Hearts come calling, it’s very, very difficult to turn them down.
“We were building something at Tannadice, had a great 18 months and were building a great team.
“But I see the potential to build something here.
“Micky will be a great appointment for United, he’ll take the club forward. I’ve spoken to him a few times.
“The objective as a coach is to leave the club in a better place. I think I did that.”
In the aftermath of his shock move to Hearts, former United man Steven Pressley, who also played with Neilson at Tynecastle, suggested all was not well behind the scenes at Tannadice.
Pressley implied his former teammate was unhappy with the lack of direct access to United owner, Mark Ogren.
But asked whether he had any misgivings about the set-up at United, where sporting director Tony Asghar is the head coach’s main point of contact, Neilson said: “No, not at all. I had the same situation with a sporting director at Hearts.
“When anything moves in a football club and something comes out of the blue, the first relationship anyone looks at is the sporting director.
“But Tony and I had a great relationship. We worked well together and managed to get the team promoted – and I wish Tony all the best in the future.
“I think he’ll do great things at the club. It’s a good managerial appointment to move forward.
“Football clubs are about success. We managed to have success there and the relationships were all good.
“It’s just that, if it had been a different club coming into ask me the question, it would have been a different answer.”
Meanwhile, Neilson suggested Christophe Berra could have a key role to play at Tynecastle this season.
Hearts hero Berra was farmed out on loan to Dundee in January and played a key role as the Dark Blues’ fortunes improved.
However, the Dens Park side’s hopes of tempting him back look to be dead and buried after Neilson talked up his former teammate’s leadership qualities.
“I know Christophe well,” said Neilson.
“Obviously, I played with him and I’ve known him for a long time. For me, he’s a leader.
“He had issues (last season) but, for me, it’s a fresh start for everyone, to come back in in pre-season and try to get themselves back in the team.
“I can’t comment (on Christophe’s treatment under Daniel Stendel) because I don’t know the ins and outs of it.
“I had a brief chat with Christophe and he was very open and honest about the situation. While he didn’t go into detail he was quite glad that he can come back and hopefully get a fresh start
“For me, we’ve got to have leaders in the team. We’ve got a lot of young players that have come through and while the younger ones have shown great potential, that was when the team was doing well.
“When the team started to not do so well, they found it quite hard and that’s when you need big characters and guys who have been over the course to help them through it. Christophe’s one of them.”