LEEDS UNITED’S Championship play-off rivals Birmingham City have sacked manager Gary Rowett.
Rowett’s contract, and those of his backroom staff – Kevin Summerfield, Mark Sale, Kevin Poole and Darren Robinson – have been terminated with immediate effect.
It is a surprise development at St Andrew’s with Birmingham only outside the play-off places on goal difference after winning 2-1 at home to Ipswich on Tuesday night.
The Blues’ previous two results were heavy 4-0 and 3-0 defeats to Newcastle and Barnsley respectively but they are the only two losses in the club’s last seven league matches.
Birmingham’s new owner Trillion Trophy Asia Limited (TTAL) announced the decision to relieve Rowett of his duties had been taken “with a strategic, long-term view and with the club’s best interests at heart”.
A statement on the club’s official website, bcfc.com, said: “This has not been an easy decision to make.
“The board would like to thank Gary and his backroom staff for their efforts and wish them all the best for the future.
“Gary came in and immediately stabilised the team amid difficult circumstances and during his tenure improved the club’s fortunes on the field. He has conducted himself professionally on behalf of the club at all times and there is a genuine sadness at this course of action.
“However, new owners Trillion Trophy Asia Limited (TTAL) remains determined to lead the club to a bright and exciting future. Supporters can rest assured that the decision has been taken with a strategic, long-term view and with the club’s best interests at heart.
“An immediate replacement will be sought in order to afford the new manager the time to assess where the existing playing squad needs strengthening. The board recognises the urgency required given that the transfer window will open at the start of January and funds have been made available.
“TTAL has been involved with the club for more than 18 months and has reviewed all playing and non-playing matters during that period.”
Former Birmingham defender Rowett left Burton - who he had taken to successive League Two play-off campaigns - to replace Lee Clark as Blues boss in October 2014 and steered the club away from relegation to a 10th-place finish in the Championship that season. His first full campaign in charge last term again brought a 10th-place finish.
There were positive signs this season that Birmingham might be able to get closer to the top six and sustain a play-off challenge and news of Rowett’s departure has been met with anger by some Blues fans on social media.
However, club director Panos Pavlakis has urged supporters to trust the board’s judgement.
He said in a statement: “Such a parting of the ways is always difficult, particularly so on a personal level as I have worked very closely with Gary and have got to know him well. Our relationship was very strong but in football you can never stand still.
“I would ask that our supporters trust our judgement and look forward to and embrace the future as we begin to implement the exciting vision of TTAL.”
“The club will be making no further comment at this stage.”
Birmingham host title-chasing Brighton on Saturday and victory, combined with several other results going their way, could actually see the Blues finish the evening in third place in the Championship table.