West Bromwich Albion fans today named former Manchester United hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the favourite to be their new head coach as the race to replace Steve Clarke began.
Almost one in four supporters voted for the 40-year-old Norwegian in an Express & Star poll with many also backing former boss Roberto Di Matteo for a shock return to The Hawthorns.
A Di Matteo comeback is thought to be a non-starter despite bookmakers making the Italian second favourite for the job behind ex-Baggies midfielder Martin Jol.
Clarke was placed on ‘gardening leave’ by chairman Jeremy Peace on Saturday just hours after the 1-0 Premier League loss at Cardiff City – Albion’s fourth successive defeat.
Former Wolves midfielder Keith Downing and goalkeeping coach Dean Kiely were placed in caretaker charge and are expected in manage the team in Saturday’s crucial home game against Hull City. In another online poll, E&S readers were split on the decision to sack Clarke with 48 per cent in favour and 52 against wielding the axe.
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Solskjaer, who spent 11 years with United and scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final, has been manager at Norwegian side Molde since 2011, winning two league titles.
He polled almost 25 per cent of votes in a poll at expressandstar.com with Di Matteo second on 18 per cent and German Ralf Rangnick, who was interviewed twice before Clarke’s appointment in 2012, the only other man in double figures on 12 per cent.
Clarke last night claimed he had ‘unfinished business’ at The Hawthorns after being told of his departure on Saturday in a late-night meeting with Peace and other Albion directors at the club’s Great Barr training ground.
In a statement issued through the League Managers’ Association, the 50-year-old Scot 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.
“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.”
Clarke led Albion to eighth place in the Premier League last season but they have won just seven of their 34 league games in 2013 and sporting and technical director Richard Garlick said: “We felt it was important we acted now to give the club the best possible chance of a successful outcome this season.”