Derek McInnes insists it was Greg Stewart’s decision to return to Aberdeen as he hit back at Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke’s gripes of alleged underhand dealings.
The Rugby Park manager was left furious when McInnes won the race to sign Stewart, insisting the deal reeked of “bull****”.
The 28-year-old playmaker had been due to see out the season in Ayrshire until parent club Birmingham cut short his Killie loan before allowing him to rejoin the Dons for a second spell.
McInnes, though, has defended his club’s actions during the transfer saga, saying: “We were asked by Birmingham to submit our best offer by Friday lunchtime, which we did do and were told Kilmarnock had matched the offer and it was up to the player.
“At no point did we ever feel comfortable that the player was coming.
“But just to take away any doubt about how it all played out, Greg decided he wanted to come to us which is great news for us.
“Now we have him, it’s important we try to get the most out of him, which Greg will commit to that too.”
Stewart spent last season on loan with the Dons but – out of shape – he struggled to reproduce the form that won him his 2016 move from Dundee to St Andrew’s.
However, the former Cowdenbeath attacker has been back to his best this term after being charged by Clarke with pulling the strings for Killie.
Now McInnes is keen to finally see Stewart shine in a Reds shirt.
“Greg did play in the number 10 position a lot for us – but he came to us unfit, by his own admission,” said the Aberdeen boss, who has also allowed midfielder Chris Forrester to rip up his Dons contract and return to Ireland.
“When we were back into the swing of things with European games, Ryan Christie was winning that fight to play in that role ultimately.
“Greg takes a lot of responsibility for that, but I thought he finished the season well for us once he got used to how we worked and he got himself fitter.
“But there was always a feeling that it could have gone better from both of us. We wanted to get more out of Greg and likewise, he felt the same.
“We thought about bringing him back in the summer and getting him through a full pre-season.
“But the truth of the matter was, we were after Ryan Christie (from Celtic) and thought it was an easier, a cheaper deal to do. We were given encouragement that would be the deal (to be) done.
“While we were waiting on Ryan, Greg moved to Kilmarnock and we ended up missing out on both players.
“Now we’ve got him back and it was Greg who wanted to come back to us, which I think suggests that he did enjoy his time with us and he feels he’s got unfinished business here.”
Meanwhile, McInnes has backed under-fire Hamilton boss Martin Canning ahead of Accies trip north on Wednesday.
He said: “Hamilton are a competitive team. I really admire a lot of what Hamilton and Martin have done.
“They have the least resources of anyone in the league and they find a way to stay in it.
“That’s credit to their spirit and the way they work.”