Mark Rudan has revealed the personal inner turmoil that has played out behind the most successful Wellington Phoenix campaign in four years.
The club confirmed on Monday their head coach would be leaving at the end of this A-League season and Rudan today fronted media at Westpac Stadium to explain his reasons for exiting with one year left to run on his contract.
This was a very different Mark Rudan to the bullish, exuberant, confident character who faced the cameras and microphones in the very same room when he was unveiled as Wellington coach in late May.
Instead, it was an apologetic, softly-spoken, repeatedly contrite Rudan who said the word "sorry" at least a dozen times during an at times emotional media conference.
As has been widely reported, Rudan will head back to Sydney to be with his wife and teenaged sons, who he has lived apart from for the best part of the last year.
Despite repeated attempts to sell them on a move to New Zealand, Rudan admitted he knew after his family spent an extended Christmas holiday with him in Wellington that a permanent relocation wasn't going to happen.
"My intentions were good - to try and convince them to come over and stay," he said. "I thought in the back of my mind I'd find a way of getting them over here but I think I was just lying to myself and trying to convince myself that I could convince them.
"I was torn; I didn't know what to do and I'd never been in this situation before. There are moments when a dad's got to be a dad. He's got to be there and put his arm around his kids and be there for the family and I've missed that. It wasn't my intention to lead anybody on. I was just confused about what the best thing to do was.
"I was always going to let someone down no matter what decision I made. I've let my club down and my fans down and everybody here and that's genuinely how I feel. They've got every reason to be upset with my decision, I get that. I'm sorry to those who I've upset and I just hope they can understand my side."
Fan reaction to Rudan's departure has been mixed. There's a significant amount of gratitude for the way he's turned around the flailing fortunes of a struggling football club, but many also feel let-down by his decision to leave the job midway through his contract.
"I'll take any punches that come my way," said Rudan.
"All I can say is that when I came here my intentions were very, very good. I wanted to make a difference at this football club. I gave it my all and I really wish it could have been different, more than you know, but it's not to be.
"I understand the disappointment with people - I get that, they're hurt. They've got every right to say what they want - they pay their hard-earned, they're supporters and members of this football club. If they feel that or sense that, I'll take it on the chin. It's my fault, no-one else's."
"If they want to throw oranges and bananas, I'm not the best at eating fruit, so I've been told by my nutritionist and that I should eat more of that," he joked.
"But I can understand why they're angry and they're right. Everything they want to say about me is right - if they think I'm this, that or the other. I'll take whatever hits come my way and all I can do is apologise."
The timing of Rudan's announcement to the players had also raised eyebrows, with many correlating back-to-back defeats with the inevitable uncertainty in the squad.
"I don't know what the best way would have been [to tell them]," Rudan admitted.
"Could it have been better? Probably. How? I don't know. Should I have come out earlier and said, 'This is what's happening?' I told the players and staff when it started and I tried to be open with you guys (the media).
"Had I said it earlier, how would that have affected my playing group, the supporters and everybody else? I tried to do the best I could, but I was conflicted and it was very complicated."
Rudan also revealed he offered to resign after the side's loss to Brisbane last Friday, just hours after news broke of his impending departure.
"I'm not going to stand in the way of this playing group or this football club. Too much good work and hard work has been done and if it's better without me, so be it. I love this football club, I love my players, I believe in them and I believe we can do something fantastic. But I told the club if it became an issue for me to continue after all this, I'm out of here."
While he has been heavily linked with a move to Melbourne-based A-League expansion club Western United, Rudan confirmed he hasn't signed a contract to coach elsewhere beyond this season and any announcement on his next move won't come until the Phoenix have played their final game of 2018/19 season.
As things stand they're still in the hunt for a home playoff match with two regular season games remaining and will contest the A-League finals series for the first time since 2014/15.
"Right now, the full focus is on this football club and making sure we finish off the best way possible. I'll continue to give everything of myself until that final whistle blows," Rudan declared.
And what of a return to Wellington at some time in the future?
"If this club wants me back, I'll be back in a heartbeat. I love it," said Rudan with a wide smile which was rare during his 40-minute media conference.
"The people of Wellington and this club have really taken me in. I worked hard, I gave it my all and dedicated a year of my life to this and there's a lot more to go. I'd love to come back but who knows where life takes you? I thought I was going to be here not just for two years, but a lot longer.
"I love this place. If it was just about me, I'd be here long-term."