Gregory opts for appeal after Derby dismissal

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The Independent Online

Derby County yesterday sacked their manager John Gregory after an investigation into "serious allegations" made against him.

Derby County yesterday sacked their manager John Gregory after an investigation into "serious allegations" made against him.

Gregory, 48, and with two years left on his £20,000-per-week contract, has launched an immediate appeal and may take the matter to court.

In a statement, the First Division club said: "Derby County Football Club have announced today that John Gregory has been dismissed from his role as manager. Mr Gregory has a right to appeal which he has chosen to exercise. The appeal will be heard by the chairman [Lionel Pickering] as soon as is practicable. The club will have nothing more to say on this matter until the result of the appeal is known."

Gregory was suspended on 21 March and met Derby officials in hearings earlier this week. It is likely that his appeal will be heard in the next few days. Along with the manager, the club also suspended the coach, Ross MacLaren, and the physiotherapist, Stuart Walker, following allegations made against them.

They continue to remain as nominal employees. In addition, earlier this year, Billy McEwan was reinstated as first-team coach following a successful appeal against his sacking by Gregory, which was deemed to be "unmerited". He has worked alongside George Burley, the former Ipswich Town manager, who has been in temporary charge while the investigation has taken place.

Gregory, the best-paid manager in the Football League despite Derby's debts of £30m, claims the club owe him £1.5m in compensation under the terms of his contract which allow for a pay-off if he lost his job within two years of his tenure starting.

The club will undoubtedly argue that the nature of his departure will negate that deal. On top of that he is expected, if the case goes to court, to claim damages for injury to his professional reputation.

Gregory, a former Derby player, took over at Pride Park in January last year shortly after resigning as manager of Aston Villa with a brief to keep them in the Premiership, although they took just one point from their last eight games. In all, he won just 16 of his 55 matches in charge as Derby went into freefall. The club finished 18th in the First Division this season, just six points above the relegation places, although they had looked candidates to go down until Burley came in.

The grounds for Gregory's dismissal have not been revealed but allegations of demeaning treatment and medical care given to Craig Burley, one of the senior players and, coincidentally, George Burley's nephew, is thought to be among them.

Alan Watson, a former medical consultant to Derby, has alleged that the club mishandled an Achilles tendon injury while Burley, a former club captain, feels he was excluded after turning down a loan move to Middlesbrough and also refusing a contract termination.

Concern has also, apparently, been expressed over Gregory's transfer dealings, such as Warren Barton's move from Newcastle United. Quite separately, Gregory is also the subject of a Football Association investigation into deals carried out while he was manager of Aston Villa, including the signing of Bosko Balaban.

There were also allegedly tensions between Gregory and some other senior players, such as Georgi Kinkladze, who will leave during the summer, although they are not thought to have formed part of the case against him.

Derby have not announced a replacement for Gregory although the name of another former player, Dean Saunders, now a coach at Blackburn Rovers, was being touted yesterday. Burley, who is highly regarded, is also a candidate although he has also been linked with the manager's job at Fulham.

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