West Bromwich Albion have parted company with boss Valerien Ismael.
The 46-year-old Frenchman had taken Albion to fifth in the Championship – but fans voiced concerns over his style of football.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Millwall was the head coach’s final game in charge.
Assistant head coach Adam Murray has also left the club, while Albion have also made a change at boardroom level, bringing in Ron Gourlay as chief executive officer in place of Xu Ke.
Club owner Guochuan Lai, the controlling shareholder, will replace Li Piyue as Albion chairman.
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Lai is now looking for his eighth head coach since his Chinese investment group bought Albion from Jeremy Peace in September 2016 – to follow Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Darren Moore, interim boss Jimmy Shan, Slaven Bilic, Sam Allardyce and Ismael.
Former Aston Villa and Birmingham City boss Steve Bruce is favourite to replace Ismael.
The Baggies have a week before their next game against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Where did it all go wrong?
Ismael, moved to The Hawthorns from Barnsley in June following Albion’s relegation from the Premier League – but he won just 12 of his 31 matches in charge.
Albion, aiming to be promoted to the Premier League for a record sixth time, made a great start under Ismael, scoring 12 goals as they won four of their first five Championship games in an unbeaten start to the season in August.
But they have won just eight times in 24 games since – and have taken 14 points out of a possible 39 with goals also drying up.
Their unbeaten home record (the club’s longest ever unbeaten start to a season) went against Preston last week and their ‘goals against’ total (24 in 29 games) is the joint lowest in the second tier – but they will be out of the play-off positions if other clubs win their games in hand.
The Baggies signed striker Daryl Dike in the January window, but the new arrival from MLS side Orlando City suffered a hamstring injury on his home debut.
And, although Andy Carroll was brought in as a temporary stop-gap, the Baggies’ latest defeat left them with one victory in seven league games.
Gourlay ‘proud and honoured’
New CEO Gourlay has considerable experience in football, having occupied senior roles at Manchester United, Chelsea and Reading.
Gourlay, who had been working for Albion as an advisor, became Chelsea CEO in September 2009, succeeding Peter Kenyon – and was there when they won the Champions League for the first time in 2012.
He stayed until 2014, during which time he worked with five Chelsea managers – Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho.
Gourlay took on the same role at Reading in July 2017, where he worked with two managers – Jaap Stam, who left in March 2018, and then Paul Clement, the brother of former Albion favourite Neil Clement, who was this week appointed as part of Frank Lampard’s backroom team at Everton.
But he left after just 16 months at the Royals, when they were 20th in the Championship, shortly followed by Clement.
“I am proud and honoured to be named chief executive officer of this historic football club,” Gourlay said. “I am aware of the issues we currently face, but I am not one to shy away from a challenge.”
“During my short time here as a consultant I have seen and felt the disconnect between the club and its supporters and I will work tirelessly to rectify that.
“In my conversations with Guochuan Lai during his recent visit we agreed the club needs to make significant changes in order to succeed.
“Our aim both in the short and long term is to be in the Premier League, but I recognise many of the issues at the club run deeper than which division we are playing in.
“My immediate priority is to now appoint a new head coach following the departure of Valerien Ismael. I would like to personally thank Val for his efforts and I wish him well in the future.”
Fans turned against Ismael ‘en masse’ – analysis
BBC WM’s Rob Gurney
We did expect this news to have occurred before. When they got rid of Darren Moore three years ago, he was gone before six o’clock that Saturday evening. But straight after the Millwall game on Saturday, we understand Val Ismael flew to Germany to be with his family.
He did turn up for training as scheduled on Wednesday but Albion then released their statement at two o’clock saying he was no longer head coach.
The fans had turned ‘en masse’ against him. For the last two games, both 2-0 defeats at home to Preston and against Millwall on Saturday, they were up in arms in considerable numbers and there was no way back for him.
I said at the weekend it was inconceivable that they wouldn’t act before the next game at Sheffield United and now that’s what they’ve done.
It wasn’t a very happy camp. Sam Johnstone has had quite a public falling out with him a few days ago, and Robert Snodgrass had his contract cancelled. He was somebody else who behind the scenes didn’t see eye to eye. Semi Ajayi was another one. And that has transmitted itself onto the field all too readily in recent weeks.
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