Wigan show Hutchings the door
Wigan Athletic have sacked manager Chris Hutchings 12 games into the Premier League season and just six months after he was appointed.
Wigan lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea on Saturday to slip into the bottom three with on eight points.
'This has been a very difficult decision for me and the board to make but I felt we had to act in the best interests of the club and its long-term future,' chairman Dave Whelan said in a statement.
'Chris has worked very hard since becoming manager and I cannot fault either his effort or commitment to the cause. However, it is crucial for the development of Wigan that we maintain our Premier League status this season and following results and performances in recent matches, we feel it is critical to act now.
Assistant Frank Barlow will take over on a caretaker basis until Whelan finds a replacement for a manager he described in May as 'the right person to progress the club into the next era.'
'I'd like to give him my assurance that he will have my full and total backing,' Whelan said at the time.
Hutchings was formerly assistant to Paul Jewell, who stood down immediately after Wigan avoided relegation on the final day of last season.
Hutchings, who previously had a brief spell in charge of Bradford City in the Premier League in 2000, got off to a great start as the top man at the JJB Stadium.
After winning all their pre-season friendlies the club had home wins over Middlesbrough and Sunderland and drew at West Ham United in their first four games.
But they were then knocked out of the League Cup at home by Championship side Hull City and have mustered only one point since, losing their last six games in a row.
Hutchings was sad to leave but insists he can look back on his time at the club with great satisfaction.
He said: 'I am immensely proud of what has been achieved at Wigan Athletic during my time here; two promotions, a cup final and three successive seasons so far in the top flight of English football - and hopefully many more in the future.
'It's a journey we have been on together since the summer of 2001 and can only be described as a real-life football fairytale.
'When I was given the opportunity to manage this club, I had no hesitation in taking on the challenge.
'I believe I have assembled an excellent bunch of players, a superb squad of professionals, and I still firmly believe that over time they will prove their worth and push this club to the next level. My only regret is that I will not be here to see that progression reach its summit.'
Former Liverpool, Blackburn and Newcastle boss Graeme Souness has emerged as the early favourite to replace Hutchings but the Scot is also thought to be interested in the Republic of Ireland job. Jewell is again likely to be linked with vacancy.
Whelan added: 'My energies will now be fully focused on getting the right man, firstly to stop the decline we have suffered in the last two months or so, and secondly, to take us forward in the future.
'This search will be exhaustive and I will not be commenting on any names or speculation until I have found the man I want.'
Hutchings is the fourth Premier League manager to leave their job this season following Sammy Lee (Bolton Wanderers), Martin Jol (Tottenham Hotspur) and Jose Mourinho (Chelsea).
Jewell, who was in charge for six years and oversaw their climb from the second division to the top flight for the first time - with Hutchings as his assistant - has already been linked with a possible return to the club.