Derby County have sacked manager Paul Clement just eight months after appointing the ex-Real Madrid assistant as successor to Steve McClaren. Academy director Darren Wassall is set to take over until May as the big-spending Rams seek to revive their stuttering bid to secure promotion back to the Premier League following an eight-year absence.
In an official club statement to confirm the dismissal, chairman Mel Morris wished Clement all the best but insisted that promotion was not the most pressing aim for the Championship outfit this season. This is despite the millions lavished on a whole host of ambitious signings that included club-record deals for Tom Ince and Bradley Johnson as well as the arrivals of Jacob Butterfield, Jason Shackell and Andreas Weimann.
Financial backing also arrived in January as Nick Blackman, Abdoul Camara and Marcus Olsson all moved to the iPro Stadium. However, a difficult run of seven league fixtures without a win has evidently created an air of frustration around the east Midlands.
"We are grateful for the contribution Paul has made to the football club but the time is right to make a change," Morris said. "When Paul joined us last year we worked with him to develop a plan for the club which we asked him to embrace.
"It was clear in this plan, which was briefed to supporters, players, sponsors and all our stakeholders last summer that promotion this season was not the primary target. The priorities were building on the Derby way and style of football enjoyed in the past two seasons; adding depth and strength to our playing squad; and, developing and improving player and team performance.
"Sadly, on these measurements, we have not made enough progress and that is why we have decided to part company with Paul. I firmly believe that we have one of the very best first team squads in this league. Our players are highly talented professionals who are more than capable of winning games at this level and beyond."
Despite a recent wobble that mirrors the club's failed attempts to gain promotion under McClaren, Derby remain in the thick of the promotion race. A 1-1 draw with Fulham on 6 February left them in fifth place, just five points adrift of leaders Hull and second-place Middlesbrough. They host MK Dons next before rounding off February with matches against Brentford, Blackburn and Wolves.
On the temporary appointment of Wassall, Morris added: "We are in the fortunate position to have somebody as capable as Darren at our football club and he will be leading the coaching staff with immediate effect.
"Our focus is to get the team back on track, delivering the style of football and performance we know they are capable of. I know our fans will give Darren, the coaching staff and the team their full support."
Clement, who could surely now be tempted to join former mentor Carlo Ancelotti in his new role at Bayern Munich next season, is the second Championship manager to leave his post on 8 February after Neil Redfearn was sacked by struggling Rotherham having won just five of his 21 games in charge. The ex-Leeds boss has immediately been installed as the frontrunner to take the reins at Barnsley following Lee Johnson's move to Bristol City.