MK Dons were given a huge boost in their pursuit of Paul Tisdale as Exeter City confirmed his departure on Friday.
The 45-year-old, understood to be top of Pete Winkelman's list to take over the vacant manager's position at Stadium MK, had spent 12 years at St James Park, leading the Grecians to two promotions and back-to-back playoff finals. But his last game in charge came in the 3-1 defeat to Coventry City at Wembley on Monday.
Heavily linked to the Dons job, Exeter confirmed Tisdale had turned down a deal to remain at the Devon club on Friday.
Julian Tagg, chairman of Exeter City FC, said: “Regretfully, Paul has decided not to sign.”
“We wish him the best of luck for the future and would like to thank him for his commitment to our club over the last 12 years. He has been a dedicated and successful manager, well respected both inside the Club and equally so in football generally and ever popular with players staff and volunteers, having worked so extremely hard to bring Exeter City to where we are today.
“Our offer of a new contract to Paul came with our express desire that he sign it in order to allow the club to plan and go forward with certainty. It is of course entirely Paul’s prerogative that he should choose to let the club’s deadline for a decision pass, but we are now at the point where we must move on and unexpectedly plan for a future without Paul as our manager.
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“Despite the disappointment of not achieving promotion to League One, it is important to acknowledge Paul’s stewardship of the team, guiding them through the tense play-off period. When put in context, to finish fourth in the league is a fantastic achievement.
“Under Paul’s leadership, we have consistently outperformed clubs with much larger budgets and we feel incredibly proud of everything we’ve achieved together, on and off the pitch.”
He added: “We’ll continue to watch Paul’s career with great interest. He has been Exeter City’s most successful ever manager and he will always be welcome here and we wish him well.”
It is unlikely Dons will unveil Tisdale as their new manager until next week.