Man United product Ashley Westwood leaves MSL strugglers Penang
Penang face a race against time to find a new coach to replace former Manchester United junior Ashley Westwood, who agreed for his contract to be terminated on Sunday after failing to win a single Malaysia Super League game in a troubled three months in charge.
Westwood departs Malaysia with the Georgetown-based side stranded at the bottom of the table, with two points out of a possible 24 this season.
"He has decided to end his services with us as coach with immediate effect after the club had a discussion with him," said Penang president Zairil Khir Johari via a statement on Facebook.
"The management has decided to elect assistant coach Darren Read as interim coach before we announce the appointment of a new coach in due time."
Westwood becomes the third coaching change in the MSL this season, after Azmi Mohamed (Felda United) and Karl Heinz-Weigang (Perak).
Penang will now look for someone who can make an immediate impact to revive their flailing fortunes, which sees them firmly rooted six points adrift of safety after eight games, and out of the Malaysia FA Cup.
Despite a raft of new signings, Penang made the worst-ever start to an MSL season when they became the first team to suffer five consecutive losses after the 6-1 mauling at the hands of Pahang on Feb. 18.
The 40-year-old had arrived in the island state with high hopes after winning two I-League titles with India's Bengaluru FC. The mood was further brightened when Penang winger Faiz Subri won the FIFA Puskas Award in January for the best goal of 2016.
But Westwood struggled to adapt to the Malaysian culture, and his strict and regimented style of management did not bode well with all of his players.
His departure could pave the way for ex-Kelantan and Johor Darul Ta'zim boss Bojan Hodak to return and save the side from relegation again.
The Croatian came in as the club's chief executive officer in May last year, with the team in similar league position, having only won once in 12 matches.
Hodak made an instant impact after being given the free reins to manage, with Nenad Bacina as his head coach.
Together, they managed to preserve Penang's MSL status following a dramatic final-day victory over Sarawak last year.
Hodak left in November after failing to agree with the management's vision for the club. But the 45-year-old could be tempted to the save the island which he now calls his home, having married a woman from Penang.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.