JACK WALKER, the millionaire owner of Blackburn Rovers, yesterday sacked Brian Kidd as manager and then, in a face-to-face meeting, told the players that they were responsible for the former Manchester United coach's exit.
Walker confronted the Rovers squad on whom he lavished pounds 30m during Kidd's 11-month tenure just minutes after parting company with the manager at the First Division club's training ground.
Before starting the search for a successor - Graeme Souness, Colin Hendry, Colin Todd, Joe Kinnear and Roy Evans are possible candidates - Walker lambasted the players for failing to get Rovers into the promotion race after last season's humiliating relegation from the Premiership.
"It was a real slaughtering. Jack never minces his words and let them know exactly what he thought of them," a source at the club, who are sixth from bottom with only three wins in 14 league games, said.
It was the second time in five days that former steel magnate Walker had been on the shop floor. He had pleaded with the players in the dressing- room to improve their performances before Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by QPR.
Walker is well used to sacking managers, but he took no pleasure in axing Kidd. "It is a sad day for me particularly and for everyone connected with the club," he said. "Brian is a first-class, honest man and we so wanted it to work out for him.
"But at the end of the day I have to put the club first. Results have not been good enough and in the end it's as simple as that."
The 50-year-old Kidd, who took charge on 3 December last year after Roy Hodgson's departure with the brief to arrest Rovers slide down the Premiership, will be compensated for the remaining two years of his contract. The amount has still to be settled but could be close to pounds 1m. Kidd's assistant, Brian McClair, has also been sacked.
Tony Parkes has been installed as caretaker for the fourth time in his long career as player and coach at Ewood Park and he may begin by showing several under-achieving players the door.
"I am very pleased that Tony has once again agreed to take on these duties and responsibilities," Walker said. "We are fortunate to have a man of such experience and integrity to call upon. It gives us time to fully consider the next appointment and we have to get it right."
Kinnear is being linked with the job after severing his ties with Wimbledon. However, his health may stand against him.
Souness is also available, while Evans could be tempted to return to football a year after quitting Liverpool, but he may be rated too similar to "nice guy" Kidd.
Hendry would also jump at a return, but Walker has yet to forgive the Scotland captain for joining Rangers a year ago at the start of Blackburn's decline.
Eleven months ago Kidd seemed to have it all. He was assistant manager at United, who were chasing the Treble. Along with Bryan Robson, he was viewed as the front runner to become the next United manager when Sir Alex Ferguson decided to retire, but Kidd's body clock was ticking and he was not prepared to wait and find out.
He wanted to step out from Ferguson's shadow and manage on his own and so he accepted Walker's lucrative offer to try to turn around Blackburn.
However, just like other respected right-hand men, such as Colin Harvey and Stewart Houston, he found the step up to full management too much.
When Rovers fell out of the top flight and, ironically, they were consigned to the First Division after a home draw with his old club Manchester United, Kidd refused to join his players in thanking the home fans for their support. "What have I done to go out there and have people clapping me? I've just gone out of the Premiership so what have I done?"
The most painful part for Kidd is the knowledge that the stinging words of Sir Alex look to have been proved right. Sir Alex never forgave Kidd for walking out of United and in his autobiography, he described his erstwhile right-hand man as a worrier who could not evaluate a player and talked behind his back.
There is no doubt that Kidd bought over-priced players such as Jason McAteer for pounds 4.25m from Liverpool, and then could not improve them with his coaching. He also sold good ones - Tim Sherwood to Tottenham and Chris Sutton to Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kidd's signings were often dropped, too many were never fit, tactics were chopped and changed.
However, he was not helped by what he inherited, an unhappy dressing- room full of stars who saw the way the club - Premiership champions in 1995 - had gone and was going.
Kidd wanted to build a club that would last. He had been part of the great Manchester United success story and planned to copy it.
Sadly, the epitaph on his managerial career has been penned instead by the man he left and who knew him best.
After this harrowing season as a manager in his own right Kidd will find it hard to become a manager again anywhere else.
On his first day Kidd said he did not want to die without knowing whether he could do the job. Sadly the answer after this chastening experience is "no".
BRIAN KIDD'S BLACKBURN SIGNINGS
Ashley Ward from Barnsley pounds 4.5m
Jason McAteer Liverpool pounds 4.25m
Matt Jansen Crystal Palace pounds 4.25m
Egil Ostenstad Southampton pounds 4.25m
Lee Carsley Derby pounds 3.3m
Keith Gillespie Newcastle pounds 2.75m
Per Frandsen Bolton pounds 2.25m
Craig Short Everton pounds 2.1m
Alan Kelly Sheffield United pounds 800,000
Simon Grayson Aston Villa pounds 700,000
Steve Harkness Benfica pounds 500,000
Burton O'Brien St Mirren pounds 500,000
David McNamee St Mirren pounds 500,000
TOTAL pounds 30,650,000
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