A thirteenth defeat in 18 matches in all competitions cost Roberto Di Matteo his job as head coach of West Bromwich Albion yesterday. Sam Allardyce was swiftly installed as favourite to take over, while there was backing for caretaker manager Michael Appleton, with Roy Hodgson, Martin Jol, Chris Hughton, Doncaster's Sean O'Driscoll and St Johnstone's Derek McInnes also in the frame.
Albion chairman Jeremy Peace said it was a "tough decision" to part company with Di Matteo, but one the board had taken to give the club "the best possible chance of remaining in the Premier League". He added: "Our poor sequence of results stretches back more than three months and there has been little sign of it coming to an end. We now begin the search to find a new head coach who will fit into our existing set-up and work under our sporting and technical director, Dan Ashworth."
Peace thanked Di Matteo, the former Chelsea midfielder and MK Dons manager, and his departing assistants, Eddie Newton and Ade Mafe, for their achievements over the past 19 months, particularly promotion from the Championship last season. "Roberto embraced the structure in which we wanted him to work and has been a good colleague," he said. "However, we are in a results-driven industry and felt we had no choice but to act now."
Former Blackburn manager Allardyce, who comes from nearby Dudley and made one substitute's appearance for Albion near the end of his playing career, might appeal as a the kind of no-nonsense character who could prevent Albion suffering a fourth relegation in nine seasons. But his reputation is for a more direct brand of football than The Hawthorns crowd favours. Jol and McInnes both played for Albion, as did Appleton before injury forced him to move into coaching.
Whoever succeeds Di Matteo must arrest a slide which has seen a bright start turn into another struggle for survival. After losing 6-0 at Chelsea on the opening day, Albion were beaten only once in the next eight fixtures, which included a 3-2 victory at Arsenal and 2-2 draw at Manchester United. Since then they have won just three times. The next four fixtures have a make-or-break look: home to fellow stragglers West Ham and Wolves, away to bogey-team Stoke and a derby at Birmingham.
There was much to admire in the way they kept going forward at Eastlands. Unfortunately for Di Matteo's employment prospects, Carlos Tevez's hat-trick ensured the contest was effectively over before half-time. Like Appleton, a lifelong Manchester United fan from Salford who made two appearances in the Old Trafford first-team, David Platt and Brian Kidd cut their football teeth on the red side of the great divide. Yet like Tevez, Roberto Mancini's aides will return to United on Saturday trying everything they know to gain the win City need to take advantage of United's woes at Wolves.
Platt insisted it was a measure of City's progress that they will be playing for more than local pride. "It's a compliment to us that all of a sudden it becomes about the three points, rather than City thinking, 'Oh, at least we can get some solace by winning the derby'," said Mancini's first-team coach.
Could City still win their first title since 1968? The former England captain, while asserting that it was "United's to lose", pointed to Mancini's singular approach. "What Robbie does is he wears you down and convinces you; he has this great belief we can win every game. He doesn't think, 'There's a dozen matches left and we need X number of points'. He thinks. 'If there's 12 left, there's 36 points'. That's what you go for."
Kidd's experience of Mancunian hostilities, having played for both clubs and worked as No 2 to Sir Alex Ferguson and now Mancini, is that form "goes out of the window". That would be bad news for City given the teams' respective weekend performances, though you knew what he meant.
Where there is Tevez, there is always hope. "Carlos is a fantastic player who inspires everybody," added Kidd. "He's a street footballer, like Wayne Rooney, who plays with no fear and never gives defenders a moment."
The Argentine scored a world-class goal either side of two penalties gifted by panicked opponents. Joe Hart's clean sheet – the only one during Saturday's Premier League goal-fest – pleased City's hierarchy as much as Tevez's rampage. "Over the past few weeks we've been conceding goals," said Platt. "That's stopped us from amassing points and going through the FA Cup rounds at the first hurdle."
Scorer: Man City Tevez pen 17, 22, pen 39.
Subs: Man City Dzeko (Y Touré, 63), Wright-Phillips (Tevez, 86), Razak (Silva, 90). Unused Given (gk), Lescott, Vieira, Jo. West Brom Vela (Thomas, 46), Jara (Brunt, 69), Tchoyi (Odemwingie, 87). Unused Carson (gk), Pablo, Tamas, Cox.
Booked: Man City Zabaleta West Brom Morrison, Reid.
Man of the match Tevez Match rating 7/10.
Possession Man City 51% West Brom 49%.
Attempts on target Man City 9 West Brom 9.
Referee M Atkinson (Yorkshire) Att 46,846.