Claridge, 39, was in charge for 36 days, and said he was "shocked and desperately disappointed" to be leaving, though he declined to outline the reasons behind his departure. A club statement said: "The directors believe it is in the best interests of the club that this move is made now. [It means] a new manager can be appointed quickly ahead of the [new] season. Colin Lee will be taking over with immediate effect."
A possible hint at the reasons behind the dismissal came from one of Claridge's former charges, Andy Marshall, who said he had become concerned about Claridge's management style.
"I'm an experienced player. I've been through many pre-seasons, and this one was not right," the goalkeeper said. "Did the news come as a shock? Yes and no. I'm disappointed for Steve, because [it] has come so soon after he became manager, and he was man enough to face up to us today and tell us the situation. I spoke to Steve today and told him my feelings.
"Colin Lee did well at both Wolves and Walsall. He took training on Monday He seems a nice fellow and I liked the session.
"I hope he will be given money to bring in decent players. You can't lose all the players we have and say it will not affect the team. We need first-team players, not fringe players."
Claridge's departure caps a turbulent summer. The chairman, Jeff Burnige, resigned after two months, while four key players, Darren Ward, Paul Ifill, Peter Sweeney and Danny Dichio were sold. The club's former chairman, Theo Paphitis, whose influence has grown again since Burnige's departure, is believed to have had a key role in recent events.
"It was a decision nobody expected," said Lee, who has yet to sign a contract. "Steve wanted to get permission to take me on and the meeting ended with him being dismissed. But I have not done anything wrong to Steve or anyone else. It's not in my make-up.
"This is the most difficult job I've got involved in. The team has been taken apart, and it's my job to put together a side capable of competing in the Championship. There is not the money to replace everyone, but I have been assured I can try to bring players in."
Sorry boss, your time's up
Four Days: Dave Bassett Crystal Palace 1984
Returned to Wimbledon without signing a contract.
Thirty-Three Days: Steve Coppell Manchester City 1996
Resigned on medical advice after six games.
Forty-Four Days: Brian Clough Leeds United 1974
Left after arguments with senior players.Reuse content