Sam Allardyce was sacked as Blackburn Rovers manager yesterday after losing his battle over player signings with the representatives of the club's new Indian owners, who refused his request to let him sign, among others, Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur next month.
The decision by the Rao family, who bought Blackburn last month, came as a shock to club employees, who were informed by email as the announcement was made public. Allardyce is understood to have believed that the writing had been on the wall for him for some time.
Events came to a head in the last week over disagreements on potential transfer targets in the January window. Allardyce put the names of Keane, John Carew of Aston Villa, Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City) Charles N'Zogbia of Wigan and the Espanyol striker Dani Osvaldo to the board but was told that Kentaro, the management company who effectively run Blackburn on the Rao family's behalf, had different ideas.
Kentaro is advised by the football agent Jerome Anderson and his company Sports Entertainment and Media Group (SEM), who Kentaro describe as their "corporate partners". They work on behalf of the Rao family, who own the Indian poultry firm Venky's.
This month Kentaro told Allardyce that it wanted him to consider Geovanni, the Brazilian striker formerly at Hull City who was available on a free transfer from San Jose Earthquakes, and Kris Boyd of Middlesbrough as potential January signings. Allardyce was opposed to those players coming to Blackburn.
Yesterday Allardyce was told of the decision to sack him by John Williams, the club's chairman, who appointed him when the club was still under the ownership of the Walker Family Trust. Williams has always been a supporter of Allardyce and will probably fear that his days at the club are also numbered.
Stuart Pearce, the England Under-21s manager, is one surprise name under consideration by Kentaro and SEM to succeed Allardyce. The former Tottenham manager Martin Jol, who left Ajax this month, is also in the running. Steve Kean, Allardyce's first-team coach, who has been placed in temporary charge, is also thought to have a chance of the job and is close to SEM.
The former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, now at Leicester City must also be considered a contender. His move to Manchester City in 2007 was engineered by Anderson.
After his dismissal yesterday, Allardyce, who was on a one-year rolling contract, was installed as a favourite to succeed Avram Grant at West Ham, currently bottom of the Premier League. Allardyce's assistant, Neil McDonald, was also dismissed.
With Blackburn 13th in the Premier League there was dismay around English football yesterday at the manner in which Allardyce was treated. He rescued the club two years ago from a disastrous start to the 2008-2009 season under Paul Ince and kept them competitive despite very limited resources.
Allardyce said in a statement released via the League Managers' Association that he was "shocked and disappointed" by the decision. Later he told Sky Sports that it was "unexpected". "That's the world of football today," Allardyce said. "I'm a little confused in my own mind but the reality will kick in over the next few days.
"I have had a fantastic two years and really enjoyed my time at the club. The support of everyone at Blackburn – the fans, the players and the board – was great and I really enjoyed my time there despite the relatively difficult financial circumstances. I knew that when I took the job. I am very disappointed not to be part of it but the club had to be sold."
The influence of Kentaro, whose expertise is primarily in television rights, has been felt increasingly around Ewood Park over the last two weeks. Kentaro was behind England's friendly against Argentina in Geneva five years ago and it is also behind the Brazil national team's "world tour" – the corporate name for organising lucrative friendlies for the team all over the world.
Ryan Nelsen, the Blackburn captain, said yesterday that "virtually all the players will be devastated" by Allardyce's sacking. "When you look at what he [Allardyce] has done on such limited resources it is incredible," Nelsen said. "The owners will look at the broader picture, but in the world we live in he did incredibly well at getting the best out the team.
"We were all happy because the club had to be sold and over the last few seasons the Walker Trust needed to sell. The club was a wee bit dead in the water, which is why he did an incredible job keeping us away from relegation, and we even finished in the top 10.
"Sam wasn't given the credit he deserved. Once we were bought out we thought we were moving in a new direction and that Sam might be given financial resources to work with. He wasn't given that chance, which is devastating for the man.
"Everyone says that 'this is football', with what happened at Newcastle [with Chris Hughton], but it is a real shame because I know how much energy, time and passion the manager put into Blackburn. To be let go like that must be very disappointing."
Blackburn runners and riders
Popular 54-year-old Dutchman impressed during his three years at Tottenham and enjoyed a record-breaking season with Ajax before quitting last week. He has said he would welcome a return to England and almost took over at Fulham in July before being linked with the Newcastle United vacancy last week.
The 43-year-old was appointed Rovers first-team coach by Allardyce in August 2009. A brief playing career preceded coaching spells with Reading, Fulham, Real Sociedad and Coventry. The Scot was also linked with a role at Chelsea under Luiz Felipe Scolari in June 2008.
Former England captain has been quietly impressing with his work with the England Under-21s, taking them to the final of the European Championship last summer. Had two average seasons at Manchester City after succeeding Kevin Keegan but could relish a return to the day-to-day involvement of the club scene.
Sven Goran Eriksson
The former England manager has been out of the Premier League since leaving Man City in 2008, but has turned Leicester's season around since taking over in October. The Swede agreed to take over at Ewood Park in 1997 before reneging on his word, opting to join Lazio instead.
* Leading contenders:
7-4 Jol; 11-2 Dave Jones; 6-1 Chris Hughton; 7-1 Alan Curbishley; 8-1 Chris Coleman; 10-1 Phil Brown, Eriksson, Martin O'Neill. 12-1 Alan Shearer. Others: 33-1 Pearce.