Eighteen months after achieving promotion to the Premiership, Dave Jones was yesterday relieved of his duties as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Molineux board, whose patience with the Merseysider was exhausted by Saturday's capitulation to 10-man Gillingham, promptly launched a search for a successor which is certain to consider the merits of Gary Megson, who until a week ago was in charge of Wolves' greatest rivals, West Bromwich Albion.
Jones kept his job after Wolves' relegation last May, which came less than a year after he ended their 19-year exile from the top flight by leading them to victory in the First Division play-off final. This season, however, they have won just four of the first 15 games in the Championship and lie in 19th place following a defeat at the Priestfield Stadium that was described as "disgraceful" by the chairman, Rick Hayward, and "the last straw" by the chief executive, Jez Moxey.
Hayward's father, Sir Jack, was accustomed to firing managers, but Jones' dismissal was the first for his son, the Gordonstoun-educated Rick, who took over a year ago next month. Clearly emotional as he faced the media, he said: "Dave has taught me a lot. He's a great guy who has become a good friend. But what can I say? This is a business. The big question is how long you wait. I felt we couldn't wait any longer.
"We felt the team had turned the corner and started getting it together against Derby and Queen's Park Rangers [who Wolves beat in their last two home games], so I don't quite understand what went wrong at Gillingham. Maybe that is just football, but I can't always be saying that. I think it was disgraceful and disappointing, the performance as well as the result. If we had lost and yet I'd seen that we really worked hard and looked confident, then maybe we wouldn't have reached this point. But I just couldn't see it.
"I know our players can do better than that. On the face of it, most of them are extremely good. A lot of them are internationals, who can take pressure. So it was very disappointing that we had gone back to square one again. I didn't want to see us slipping back into old ways - being bullied and pushed around by 10 men. But it wasn't just one match. I was quite bold at the end of last season, saying we would come straight back up, so it's sad that it has come to this. Now we must move on. Hopefully, we'll find someone who will take us up at the end of this season."
Assistant manager Stuart Gray takes charge on a temporary basis with a visit to fifth-placed Sunderland tonight.
Micky Adams and Glenn Hoddle have been linked to the post long term. Adams is available after he left Leicester last month and Hoddle has been out of management since leaving Spurs in September 2003. Former Aston Villa and Derby manager John Gregory is also thought to be available.
In just under four years with the club Jones' guided the side to 62 wins from 164 games, with 49 draws and 53 losses.