Surprise sacking leaves Clark 'perplexed'

Huddersfield manager axed after brief phone call despite superb record... but supporters not shocked

Like Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson, Lee Clark had suffered just three league defeats as a manager this season prior to yesterday. Unlike that pair, Clark is out of work this morning after his sacking as Huddersfield Town manager.

The news of the dismissal of Clark and his back-room staff yesterday came as a shock to anyone who has followed the Huddersfield story from a distance: after all, it was less than three months ago, on 19 November, that the West Yorkshire club established a new Football League record of 43 matches unbeaten, surpassing the 42-game run of Brian Clough's late 1970s Nottingham Forest side.

The League One club's trajectory appeared ever upwards under Clark, 39, who was seemingly thriving in his first managerial role after assisting Glenn Roeder at Newcastle and Norwich. Appointed in December 2008, he took Huddersfield to the play-offs for the past two seasons, though there was bitter disappointment last May when they lost to Peterborough in the final. Despite Tuesday's 1-0 home loss to Sheffield United, Huddersfield remain only four points behind second-placed United.

Clark's dismissal reportedly came in a brief phone conversation with the club's owner, Dean Hoyle. Clark said: "I am very perplexed as to why I was dismissed as manager of Huddersfield. I am extremely disappointed and shocked considering that, with just 16 games left, we are in such a great position to compete for automatic promotion.

"We [created] history in the record books for consecutive unbeaten games. This was an immense achievement by everybody connected with the club."

Hoyle denied that Clark's sacking was a knee-jerk reaction to Tuesday's loss when he said: "This was a very difficult decision, one not taken lightly or in response to one result. Concerns have been raised over recent weeks."

According to Steve King, chairman of the Huddersfield Town Supporters' Association, the mood among fans is less unanimous than an outsider might expect. "I'd say it was 50-50," he said, pointing to the investment under Hoyle and a high number of draws which some feared would lead to another near miss. "We've not managed to kill teams off."

Clark, who was on Leicester City's radar before the appointment of Nigel Pearson, has already been linked with the vacant Leeds manager's job. He told The Independent last May how even as a young player he would watch how his managers "would react to different scenarios". Yesterday provided the ultimate scenario, but his star will surely rise again.

Thanks for nothing: Other unjust exits

Chris Hughton Newcastle were 11th in the Premier League when he was sacked by Mike Ashley in 2010. He helped the club to promotion at first attempt, and over saw a 5-1 thrashing of Sunderland.

Vicente del Bosque Led Real Madrid to two Champions Leagues and two titles in four sea-sons; sacked day after 2003 title win.

Jose Mourinho Back-to-back Premier League titles, plus one FA Cup and two League Cups not enough for Roman Abram-ovich. Replaced by Avram Grant months after winning 2007 FA Cup.