Sir Bobby Robson was this morning "relieved of his duties" as Newcastle manager.
Sir Bobby Robson's five–year reign at Newcastle came to an end this morning when the Magpies reluctantly dispensed with his services.
The 71–year–old, who rode to the rescue of the club he supported as a boy in September 1999 and took it to an FA Cup semi–final, third place in the Premiership, the second phase of the Champions League and the last four of the UEFA Cup, lost his job after Saturday's 4–2 defeat at Aston Villa cemented a dreadful start to the new season.
Robson's 12–month rolling contract became a year–long fixed deal in March and was due to expire at the end of the current campaign.
"After a disappointing start to the Barclays Premier League season, the directors of Newcastle United have informed Sir Bobby Robson they have decided that he is to be replaced as team manager," a statement issued by the club read.
"The directors of Newcastle United wish to place on record their thanks for the way in which Sir Bobby has worked tirelessly over the past five years to try to bring success to the club.
"There is no hesitation by the club in recording its sincere appreciation for the way in which Sir Bobby has handled team affairs during that five–year spell which has seen a significant turnaround in the club's fortunes.
"The club agreed, early in 2003, to extend Sir Bobby's contract by one further season. However, after careful consideration, the club decided it was in the best interests of all concerned to re–visit that decision.
"The club continues to have the greatest respect and admiration for Sir Bobby and his lifelong achievements both at home, abroad and particularly at the club he has supported since a boy, his beloved Newcastle United.
"He leaves having remodelled the Newcastle team with many young players admired and coveted across the UK and Europe. The club will no doubt continue to benefit from the knowledge and experience he has given during his time here."
Today's news brings a dramatic conclusion to an eventful few months on Tyneside which has seen one of the country's most newsworthy clubs excel itself.
First there was skipper Alan Shearer's warning in the wake of Patrick Kluivert's arrival that he would not be prepared to sit on the bench, and then came Robson's insistence that he had no idea that his current contract would be his last.
A bout of highly–contagious conjunctivitis, which forced the Magpies to close their training headquarters on the eve of the new season, blurred the vision further, although it was midfielder Kieron Dyer's refusal to play on the right side of midfield in the opening day fixture at Middlesbrough which hit the headlines next.
Dyer's subsequent apology after being booed while on England duty at St James' Park did little to ease the tension, but there were bigger stories to come.
Jonathan Woodgate's shock departure for Real Madrid and the club's subsequent bids for Wayne Rooney left fans shellshocked, and striker Craig Bellamy added fuel to the fire when he suggested he would have to consider his options if Rooney were to arrive, later admitting he had spoken in haste and re–asserting his commitment.
But Robson's departure after a series of indifferent results – draws against Middlesbrough and Norwich in games which had already been won and defeats by Tottenham and Villa – became inevitable, if not the timing of it.
Ironically, it came two days after Robson had left Shearer sitting on the bench at Villa Park five years and three days after his predecessor Ruud Gullit had done the same against Sunderland, he too paying the ultimate price for a defeat too far.