STUART McCall was pound-for-pound the best choice to revive City, according to Julian Rhodes.

The chief executive admitted that McCall was the only man he wanted to replace Gary Bowyer.

He insists McCall has “unfinished business” at Valley Parade after his harsh dismissal two years ago – and deserved another crack at the job for how he had over-performed in his last spell.

READ MORE: McCall will be his own boss

Rhodes stressed the City legend’s reappointment for a third time as manager is based purely on ability not just popularity.

Speaking exclusively to the T&A, Rhodes said: “My phone went absolutely ballistic with calls, texts and WhatsApps messages from agents after the news went out about Gary.

“But the only name I was interested in calling was Stuart’s agent and sure enough he rang within half an hour.

“I called Stuart and we did the deal in about five minutes. He was so keen to get in on Tuesday that he didn’t even sign his contract until after training.”

Rhodes had been instrumental in bringing back McCall for a second time in charge in 2016 after he had sold the club with Mark Lawn to Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic.

He told Rahic that McCall was the ideal candidate to placate the fans after Phil Parkinson’s exit. But Rhodes still felt it was a risk.

“Phil was a very tough act to follow but it looked like Stuart had learned how to be a good manager up in Scotland and deserved the chance,” he added.

“I was a bit sceptical because it hadn’t worked out for Stuart first time round.

“But with what happened in that season and half the next one, he did a lot better than I ever expected. We were unbeaten at home for all that first year and played some delightful football.

“Our budget was around £2.7 million and Stuart had us competing with Sheffield United at £10 million plus, Bolton on more than that and even Millwall at £7-8 million.

“Ultimately it was Millwall who stopped us twice getting to the Championship.

“I had a look at our accounts from 2011 to 2017, our time under Phil and Stuart, and we made a profit of £2 million. Millwall lost £36 million over the same period.

“That’s how they over-funded to get up and yet we were close to it. It became clear for me that Stuart could produce with limited resources.”

Despite losing the bulk of the side who went to Wembley in 2017, McCall still managed to keep City in a regular play-off place until he was sacked the following February.

Rhodes said: “All those good players left after the play-off loss and were replaced by ones that I thought were not of an equivalent standard.

“Yet Stuart managed to keep the team in the play-offs for League One up against Wigan and Blackburn spending stupid amounts.

“Clubs throughout England are losing money hand over fist because millionaire owners are chucking money at it.

“We’re trying to do things the right way and be sustainable. It’s hard and you do need a manager who can out-perform the budget which he did.

“I was amazed how well he was doing. That was down to his personality, his coaching and his man management – all the players wanted to play for him because he’s easy to work with.

“This was despite things going on with Edin making life tough for him.

“I couldn’t believe it when Stuart was sacked. It was a very strange decision and I assumed it had to be a personality clash, which it was.

“I knew he had unfinished business and definitely deserved another opportunity should it ever arise.”