Steve Clarke today claimed he had “unfinished business” as the Baggies launched the search for his successor.
The Scot was sacked last night after 18 months in charge in the wake of the 1-0 loss at Cardiff – the Baggies’ fourth successive defeat.
He led the club to a best-ever Premier League finish as they ended last season in eighth place but they have picked up just 31 points from 34 games in 2013.
Fans were split down the middle over the decision to relieve Clarke of his duties, with an online poll currently even at 50-50.
Have your say, were Albion right to sack Clarke?
In a statement issued through the League Managers’ Association, Clarke said: “I believe I have unfinished business at West Bromwich Albion Football Club so it is with deep regret that I was relieved of duties as head coach last night.
“I could not have been better prepared for my first job in management after over 14 years coaching experience learning from some of the great managers in the modern era.
“It was certainly a challenge to succeed Roy Hodgson, having been appointed England manager, after he successfully guided the club to a 10th place finish in 2011/12, after only securing their Barclays Premier League status the year before.
“It goes without saying that I was extremely proud to have built on that achievement by securing the club’s highest ever finish in the Barclays Premier League and for over 30 years in the top flight by finishing eighth in 2012/13.
“Going into this season expectations were high, perhaps unrealistically so, but with it still being only our fourth consecutive season in the top flight, our primary objective had to be to establishing our status in the Barclays Premier League.
“I was, and remain, convinced that we were well placed to achieve this aim.
“It has been an honour to manage this club and I would like to thank the staff who have assisted me in every possible way as well as the fans who have been tremendous throughout.
“Now, I wish everyone connected with the club the very best for the future.”
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Richard Bevan, chief executive of the LMA, said; “Steve Clarke’s achievements at West Bromwich Albion are very significant indeed.
“In November 2012 they won four consecutive matches for the first time at the highest level in over 30 years.
“In April 2013 the club defeated Southampton 3-0 at St Mary’s this was their 14th win of the season and the club’s highest number of wins in the Premier League.
“By the end of the season they had accumulated 49 points which secured 8th place and the club’s highest finish in 32 years.
“This season Steve has engineered some outstanding results, the 2-1 victory over champions Manchester United was their first win at Old Trafford since 1978.
“The next match was a deserved 1 – 1 draw against leaders Arsenal. Soon after most commentators thought the Albion were very unlucky only to get a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
“This is a coach who can clearly pit his wits against some of the very best in the game worldwide.
“Obviously we are very sad for Steve, as the reality is he has only been given 18 months in his first managerial position during which he has achieved some real successes.
“Perhaps his dismissal is another example of a coach getting more out of his team than anyone expected and then, when results start to take a down-turn, the raised expectations count against him.
“Whatever the future holds for Steve, the fact remains that last year he set a club record for their finish in the Barclays Premier League and having worked with some of the game’s most notable managers in Sir Bobby Robson, Jose Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish he need have no doubts about his coaching and management credentials”.
The football world reacts to Steve Clarke's sacking on Twitter:
Roberto Di Matteo was the early favourite with the bookies to make a shock return to the Hawthorns, after he was sacked in February 2011.
The following year, he led Chelsea to their first Champion's League title after defeating Bayern Munich on penalties at their own Allianz Arena.
Also said to be in the running are former Fulham boss Martin Jol and Molde manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In a statement, Albion sporting and technical director Richard Garlick points to the team’s performance over the calendar year as key behind the decision.
Albion have won only seven of their 34 Barclays Premier League games during the calendar year – a 20 per cent win percentage yielding a total of only 31 points – despite a substantial investment in the first-team squad.
The statement confirmed the decision was made unanimously by the board of directors, with some reports suggesting chairman Jeremy Peace and Garlick gave the news to Clarke when the team coach arrived back at the club training ground.
Joint-Assistant Head Coach Keith Downing has assumed control of first-team affairs whilst the club considers all available options for a new head coach.
See Steve Clarke's final press conference as Albion boss after the defeat to Cardiff:
Garlick said: “We have reluctantly come to the decision to relieve Steve of his duties after very careful consideration.
“It has been well documented that we have not had the rub of the green in certain games this season but that does not cloud the generally disappointing points return during this calendar year, culminating in today’s fourth-successive defeat at Cardiff.
“This club's track record proves we do not take such decisions lightly, having only enforced a change in this position three times in approximately 14 years.
“But with key games coming thick and fast, we felt it was important we acted now to give the club the best possible chance of a successful outcome this season.
“Our player wage bill is the highest in the club’s history and we feel we have built a squad capable of being very competitive in the Premier League.
"We now begin the search to find a new head coach who will work within our existing structure, which has been in place for the past six years.”
Clarke’s assistant Kevin Keen has also been placed on gardening leave.
"On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Steve and Kevin for their efforts over the past 18 months,” added Garlick.
“We wish them and their families well for the future.”
The statement added: “The board will make no further comment until a new head coach has been appointed.”
Have your say, were Albion right to sack Clarke?