Horton joins Premiership's casualty list

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The Independent Online
And so, within the space of 24 hours, 11 became 12: the number of Premiership managers to have lost their jobs this season. Brian Horton brought up the dozen yesterday with his departure from Manchester City which means that every club, bar one, of those who finished in the bottom half of the table has made a change at the top since the start of the campaign.

The exception is Sheffield Wednesday who are expected to put Trevor Francis out of his misery before much longer. Horton's demise, which came a day after Alan Smith left Crystal Palace, came in a morning meeting with the City chairman, Francis Lee. Last night bookmakers were refusing to accept bets on a possible successor, believing Lee has a replacement lined up although City say the job will be advertised.

After a promising start when they held a top-six position, City have again been fighting a relegation battle. Sunday's defeat at home to Queen's Park Rangers, which cost the club £203,860 because it denied them a finishing position five places higher, was the last straw. David Moss, the assistant manager, has also gone.

Horton arrived at Maine Road from Oxford United four games into the start of the 1993-94 season following the dismissal of Peter Reid. He was the final appointment of Peter Swales's doomed reign and the accession of Lee, the swashbuckling former City and England striker, meant that Horton was always looking over his shoulder.

In his first year City finished 16th with 45 points - four fewer than this season when they were one place worse off. Lee stood by Horton last summer but a string of poor results in 1995 and two disappointing cup defeats eroded the chairman's patience.

In a statement the chief executive, Colin Barlow, described Horton's meeting with Lee as "amicable" and said: "In view of the team's performance over the season it has been decided that in the best interests of the club that his [Horton's] services be dispensed with immediately."

Horton described it as "a sad day''. "It always is sad when this kind of thing happens. You know it is going to happen one day. I've only had the sack twice in 12 years. That is not a bad record. Maybe sixth bottom was not good enough for a club like City. But if we had beaten QPR on Sunday we would have finished 12th,'' he said.

Lee and his board will consider the claims of Bolton's managerial partners, Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd, two of Lee's team-mates during his time with Derby County.

The Millwall manager, Mick McCarthy, a former City player, has already been linked with the post as has Sheffield United's Dave Bassett.

The ever-swelling ranks of former managers has led to the former Blackburn and Fulham manager, Don Mackay, to call for a speedy introduction of a system whereby managerial contracts are registered with the Premier League and compensation claims settled more easily.

Smith is leaving with a £13,000 pay-off and will keep his company Jaguar car. A last request from Ron Noades for Smith to nominate his successor indicates that the Palace chairman is undecided about who should replace him although it appears that Ray Lewington, the reserve team coach, will have a more prominent role. Noades refused to confirm that Peter Nicholas, the youth team coach and former Palace captain, was favourite for Smith's post.

Stan Collymore has indicated that his contract talks with Nottingham Forest are nearing a conclusion. However Frank Clark, the Forest manager, said: "We are still talking and I am still hopeful but I can't see anything being finalised before we go to Singapore on Thursday."

Jim Leighton, who is two months short of his 37th birthday, will captain Scotland on their two-match tour of Japan. The 17-man squad leaves today.

Cup final countdown, page 38