The Derby chief executive Jeremy Keith has hit back at suggestions that the manager Phil Brown was sacrificed to deflect criticism from the beleaguered Pride Park.
Brown was sacked on Monday night after just seven months in charge following a 3-1 defeat by their FA Cup fourth-round opponents Colchester at Layer Road on Saturday, seven days after being humiliated 6-1 in a Championship fixture at Coventry.
The club is lying 19th in the table, only six points clear of relegation, and Keith and his fellow board members decided to dismiss Brown, who was appointed during the summer on a three-year contract.
Although Derby have won only seven out of 33 games since Brown took charge at the end of June, Keith and the chairman John Sleightholme, who have come under vitriolic attack from the stands lately, denied the move was engineered to appease fans planning protests for the clash with visiting Sheffield United tomorrow evening.
Keith said: "I find those suggestions insulting, that the board would be so flippant with a man's career. Suggestions that we'd do that to Phil are going a step too far. The truth is that the protests and disquiet have been going on a long time and if I was in the state of mind to sacrifice a manager like that, I would have done it long before now."
The academy manager Terry Westley has been placed in temporary charge with senior players, such as Paul Peschisolido, acting as advisors.
Westley said: "Sheffield United will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of coming down here, they'll think we're in chaos. They'll be thinking they've caught us at a bad time. But it won't be chaos, I can assure you of that."
Keith has already hinted that there will be no shortage of applicants for the manager's job. "We've had expressions of interest from several applicants and there were messages being left on my phone as late as midnight last night.
"But we're a big club and it's the kind of job a lot of good managers would relish," Keith added.Reuse content