Mark Hughes has been sacked as manager of Stoke City, just hours after the club’s FA Cup third-round exit at the hands of League Two Coventry City.
A run of five defeats in seven Premier League games also contributed to Hughes’ departure and he leaves with the club in the relegation zone.
Hughes, 54, had been in charge of the Potters for four and a half years.
Stoke, who play Manchester United on 15 January, say they will “look to appoint a new manager as soon as possible”.
A section of Stoke fans called for him to leave and held up banners throughout the 2-1 defeat at the Ricoh Arena.
After the game – his 200th in all competitions as Stoke manager – Hughes said he did not think the defeat changed the situation regarding his future and said it “might be a blessing” for the rest of the season.
Hughes, a former Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and QPR boss, succeeded Tony Pulis at Stoke in May 2013 and was the fourth longest-serving manager at a Premier League club.
The Welshman guided Stoke to three straight ninth-placed finishes, dropping to 13th last season.
A miserable run of form
Hughes rested players as Stoke lost 5-0 at Chelsea on 30 December, saying they were focusing on the Newcastle game on New Year’s Day.
But a 1-0 defeat by the Magpies, who were a point worse off than their opponents before kick-off, put more pressure on Hughes and saw Stoke fall to 18th in the table on goal difference.
Stoke have conceded five or more in three Premier League games this season and have let in a total of 47 goals – seven more than the second-worst tally held by both West Ham and Watford.
The 5-1 defeat by Tottenham at Wembley on 9 December prompted angry fans to confront the Stoke players at the city’s railway station.
After that game, Hughes said there had been “an undercurrent” through his time at the club from fans who were against his appointment.
On Thursday Hughes said he did not need reassurance about his position.
‘A matter of when, not if’ – analysis
By BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty:
Stoke’s decision was inevitable in the wake of the defeat at Coventry. For all Hughes’ defiant words about no other manager being better-placed to put matters right, that damaging loss meant his sacking was a matter of when, not if.
The Coates family are not hair-trigger owners who rush into managerial decisions, but many felt Hughes was lucky to take charge of the Coventry game after he placed himself under massive personal pressure by fielding a weakened side in the 5-0 defeat at Chelsea to focus on the relegation battle at home to Newcastle, only to lose that game too.
He performed consistently and creditably for a long time after succeeding Pulis in 2013 but the rot set in last term and has continued this season. Stoke’s previous impregnability at home has gone and a once-reliable defence has turned into the Premier League’s worst.
High-profile signings have also failed to deliver. Kevin Wimmer has been a big disappointment since his £18m summer move from Tottenham, as Hughes moved to spend the £24m raked in from the sale of Marko Arnautovic.
Saido Berahino has not scored since a £12m move from West Brom in January 2017 while Giannelli Imbula flopped dismally after signing for a club record £18.3m in February 2016 and is now out on loan.
There have of course been successes, such as Joe Allen, but in recent times Hughes has overseen a decline that he has been unable to reverse, and results and performances this season have finally forced Stoke’s owners into a decision they were reluctant to take.
Hughes had three very good seasons of progress and consolidation – but defeat at Coventry was a humiliation too far.
The managerial numbers game
Hughes is the seventh manager to be dismissed in the Premier League this season.
Frank de Boer was sacked by Crystal Palace in September after only 77 days in charge, Craig Shakespeare left Leicester just four months after signing a three-year permanent deal in October, Ronald Koeman was sacked by Everton later that month and West Ham dismissed Slaven Bilic in November.
Also in November, former Stoke boss Tony Pulis was replaced at West Brom by Alan Pardew, while Paul Clement was dismissed as Swansea manager in December.