Dennis Wise is expected to be put in temporary charge of Millwall this weekend after unrest among players and supporters at the New Den brought down the club manager, Mark McGhee.
Wise chaired a players' meeting following a 1-0 home defeat to Preston on Tuesday night which left Lions fans calling for McGhee's head, and hours later the Millwall chairman, Theo Paphitis, terminated the contracts of McGhee and his assistant, Archie Knox, "by mutual consent".
Millwall are eighth in the First Division and a mere six points behind the leaders, but the defender Stuart Nethercott suggested frustration at the way McGhee has kept several players whose contracts expire next summer sweating on their future could have led to his downfall.
"The manager and Archie had their say after the game and then the players wanted their say together," Nethercott said.
"The contract situation was discussed. There are eight or nine of us out of contract and we haven't got a clue what will happen to us. There could have been ill-feeling with Mark about that."
Significantly, the axe fell just days after McGhee had told the popular and long-serving defenders Robbie Ryan and Matt Lawrence that they could leave the club.
"Robbie Ryan has been in a different class for this club and he can't even get in the squad," Nethercott added. "There was a lot of uncertainty at the club. It's a big thing to have hanging over us. It was always in the background."
McGhee led Millwall to the Second Division title after being appointed in September 2000, and reached the First Division play-offs the following season. But the improved contracts promised to his players after that success never materialised, and last season began with McGhee questioning their attitude after a humiliating 6-0 home loss to Rotherham.
Millwall finished the campaign eight points outside the top six, and Paphitis has since failed to see signs of significant improvement despite providing funds for McGhee to sign Noel Whelan, Bob Peeters, Kevin Muscat and Abou Fofana. A statement from the chairman read: "Last season was a frustrating one for the club, and whilst expectations were high at the start of the current campaign we have struggled to live up to them."
Nethercott admitted he was surprised at the speed of McGhee's departure, just 14 league games into the campaign. But he said: "The supporters had just had enough last night and the chairman reacted to it. Mark had a good record but expectations are high here and this was the first year he was given money to spend."
Millwall posted a £4.7m loss for last season based on falling gates because of tightened security. But McGhee's four new signings since then have failed to convince, and Millwall did not create a single chance playing an unfamiliar system against Preston. His decision to let the striker Steve Claridge leave in the summer was also unpopular, and his replacement, Mark McCammon from Brentford, subsequently suffered a serious knee injury.
Paphitis held an emergency board meeting after Tuesday night's result, and claimed the former Reading, Leicester and Wolves manager's departure after three years at the helm was "amicable". But putting Wise in charge for Saturday's visit of table-toppers Sheffield United represents a huge leap of faith.
The Burnley manager, Stan Ternent, has asked Manchester City to give him the Dutch defender Gerard Wiekens on loan. Ternent desperately needs new faces and wants Kevin Keegan to loan him Wiekens for the next three months. Wiekens, who is City's longest-serving player, is out of Keegan's plans and may be allowed to head for Turf Moor to keep himself match-fit.
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