Collins and Hoddle in line after Fulham sack Sanchez

John Collins is understood to have already been sounded out by Fulham to succeed Lawrie Sanchez who yesterday became the seventh Premier League manager to be sacked this season.

However, the former Fulham midfielder who walked out on Hibernian on Thursday, just as Sanchez was being told he would be dismissed is not the only candidate who has been considered for the post as the club tries to stave off the threat of relegation. There are some misgivings that the 39-year-old may not be experienced enough to deal with Fulham's predicament.

Sanchez's position has been reviewed throughout the season by the club's hierarchy who have been concerned by everything from his spending to his man-management and tactics and, of course, by the results he has achieved with only two wins in 17 league matches and Fulham in the bottom three. Sanchez has come close on at least one occasion before yesterday to losing his job.

Glenn Hoddle is believed to be interested in taking over and has attended recent Fulham matches, including last weekend's defeat to Newcastle United, which was Sanchez's final one in charge, while another former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Martin Jol, has also been contacted by a third party. It is believed, however, that Jol, although keen to stay in England, is hoping to land a bigger club.

Graeme Souness has spent much of this autumn trying to get back into management and would undoubtedly jump at the opportunity. Two other intriguing options for Fulham would be an approach to the former Juventus coach Didier Deschamps, who recently inquired about the England manager's job, or the former Partizan Belgrade coach, Miroslav Djukic, although neither has coached in this country.

Sanchez, who left his post as Northern Ireland coach to take over at Craven Cottage, was appointed only in May after five matches in charge as caretaker manager following the dismissal of Chris Coleman. It was a surprise appointment and, indeed, it is understood that Fulham had initially contacted the agent Athole Still to inquire about the availability of Sven Goran Eriksson but were persuaded to take Sanchez, another of his clients. The 48-year-old's immediate brief was to avoid relegation, which was achieved courtesy of the one victory he gained in the run-in against a severely depleted Liverpool side.

By then, however, there were already serious questions being asked by some at Fulham about his suitability for the job, not least after he quickly alienated much of the dressing room. But Sanchez was given a permanent deal and an astonishing 26m to spend in the summer transfer market, bringing in 12 players mainly from the Championship or from his Northern Ireland squad.

The spending was an admission by club owner Mohamed Al Fayed that, after the cut-backs made under Coleman, he needed to invest but he also expected a return on that investment and the point was made forcefully to Sanchez after a poor start to the season. Fayed is prepared to spend again next month but had warned Sanchez that he would not be spending the money if the club was in the relegation zone.

There is a background to the dismissal, which is that Fayed has received three approaches this autumn to sell the club with one offer, believed to be of around 130m, having received serious consideration. No deal has been struck but investors are still monitoring developments while the owner knows that his bargaining position is weakened by the team's league position. If Fulham were relegated he would also receive nothing like the figures that have been offered.

"Losing Premier League status is a proposition that simply cannot be contemplated," Fulham said yesterday in a statement announcing Sanchez's departure. The statement added: "Following a run of disappointing results the club are languishing in the relegation zone. We are confident we will find the right replacement to increase our chances of remaining in the Premier League, which is of vital importance."

Assistant managers Ray Lewington and Billy McKinlay have been put in charge for today's vital meeting with Wigan Athletic one of only two clubs below Fulham in the table and another that have sacked their manager this season but a permanent appointment should be made in time for the Boxing Day trip to Tottenham.

Collins is available but if he were to be appointed it would lead to protests from Hibs who he left after only 14 months following a series of rows over spending. The final straw for Collins, who was a player-coach at Fulham under former manager Jean Tigana, was the refusal to sanction the purchase of Steven Hammell, a defender from Southend United, despite having brought in almost 9m in transfers and with more expected from the sale of David Murphy next month.

Collins enjoyed great success at Hibs, winning the CIS Cup, although he did have to deal with a player mutiny last season over his style. He is wealthy enough from his playing days, which also included spells at Monaco, Celtic and Everton, not to have to rush back into work but the lure of the Premier League, and Fulham, could be tempting. Collins has also been linked with the vacant Scotland manager's job but the Scottish Football Association has said it is not rushing into an appointment and has a shortlist it wants to work through.

Top flight: exits this season

19 Sept: Jose Mourinho (Chelsea)

17 Oct:

Sammy Lee (Bolton Wanderers)

25 Oct: Martin Jol (Tottenham Hotspur)

5 Nov: Chris Hutchings (Wigan Athletic)

19 Nov: Steve Bruce (Birmingham City)

26 Nov: Billy Davies (Derby County)

21 Dec: Lawrie Sanchez (Fulham)

Other contenders: Three in frame to replace Sanchez

Glenn Hoddle

The former England manager has been out of work since resigning from Wolves in the summer of 2006 after two consecutive seasons of just missing the play-offs. Has also coached Swindon, Chelsea, Southampton and Spurs.

Graeme Souness

After he was sacked by Newcastle in February 2006 his eighth job the Scot has been linked with takeovers at Wolves and Southampton, and was reportedly considering the Crystal Palace job eventually taken by Neil Warnock.

Martin Jol

Sacked in October by Tottenham after a protracted saga, the Dutchman rejected an approach from Birmingham to take over from Steve Bruce. He is, however, thought to be keen on a return to the Premier League.

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