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Mystery surrounds NEC Nijmegen coach's departure

Players and staff at Eredivisie club NEC Nijmegen have spoken of their shock and dismay at the resignation of coach Cees Lok.

NEC announced on Tuesday morning that Lok would step down with immediate effect, even though the 39-year-old has guided his side to fifth place in the Dutch top flight.

In a letter read out to the squad, sponsors and board members, Lok claimed somewhat vaguely that he was quitting 'to avoid a difference of opinion', although the nature of the conflict has yet to be unearthed.

The remaining members of NEC's coaching staff told a press conference on Tuesday they were unaware of any dispute between Lok and the board, and the coach's departure remains a mystery to a number of other leading figures at the club.

Director Jacco Swart said: 'It has come to us all out of the blue. We were flabbergasted when Cees told us he was leaving us immediately.'

Team manager Ton Spaan added: 'I have worked here for many years and I have never witnessed anything like this before.

'Lok was a very nice man to work with. I cannot understand why this has happened.'

Midfielder Bjorn van der Doelen admitted Lok's resignation had come as a huge shock to the players, especially with a cup match against AZ Alkmaar scheduled for Wednesday night.

'We are completely surprised and we don't really know what to say about the news,' he said.

'We will have a discussion soon and then we must work towards the match against AZ. That will be difficult.'

NEC have confirmed assistant coach Ron de Groot will be interim boss until a replacement is found.

The Nijmegen outfit have won eight of their 16 games in the Eredivisie this season, and sit on the same number of points as giants Ajax.