Lee Clark is considering taking Huddersfield Town to court for unfair dismissal following his sacking yesterday.
The 39-year-old was relieved of his duties because the club did not believe he could deliver them automatic promotion.
Town dropped to fourth in League One on Tuesday, four points adrift of the top two, following a 1-0 home defeat to promotion rivals Sheffield United.
Clark, who left his role at Norwich to succeed Stan Ternent at the Galpharm Stadium on December 12, 2008, could launch an unfair dismissal case via the League Managers’ Association.
It is understood his three-year stint at the club came to an end yesterday morning following a short, sharp telephone exchange with the club’s hierarchy.
Clark said last night: “I am very perplexed as to why I was dismissed. Needless to say I am extremely disappointed and shocked considering that, with just 16 games left, we are in a such great position to compete for automatic promotion.”
Recently axed Leeds United manager Simon Grayson, former Terriers chief Neil Warnock and former Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies are among the early front-runners for the job.
Academy manager Mark Lillis has been placed in temporary charge with the club expected to make an appointment before their next game, at home against Exeter, on Saturday week.
Whoever chairman Dean Hoyle names to succeed Clark, it is clear their remit will be to mastermind promotion to the Championship via a top-two place in the remaining 16 games.
Senior figures at Huddersfield were tight-lipped yesterday but in the brief statement they did release it was made apparent that they had lost faith in Clark’s ability to get the club out of League One.
The North East native twice took Town to the play-offs, losing in the semi-finals to Millwall in the 2009-10 season and then to Peterborough United in the 2010-11 final at Old Trafford.
That defeat was the only league loss the Terriers suffered in nearly 11 months. Clark will be best remembered for overseeing a regular-season record unbeaten Football League run of 43 games that stretched from January 1 to November 28, 2011.
Leaders Charlton ended that sequence, with Tuesday’s defeat to another promotion rival in the Blades strengthening the club’s belief that Clark failed to deliver in the big games.
Hoyle said in a statement yesterday: “This was a very difficult decision, one not taken lightly or in response to one result. Concerns have been raised over recent weeks. Lee and his coaching staff have put their all into the job over the past three seasons and he has made a huge contribution to the club.
“However, with 16 matches to go we still have an opportunity to achieve promotion and we have made this change with this in mind. Huddersfield Town would like to place on record its thanks to Lee and his coaching staff and wish them all the best for the future.”
Clark spent one of the most generous wage and transfer budgets in the division on assembling a squad that repeatedly fell short.
Nevertheless, he was constantly linked to jobs at higher clubs and the fact that he failed to unreservedly commit his future to Town amid such speculation will not have endeared him to the Huddersfield board.
Clark was connected to the recent job at Leicester City before it went to Nigel Pearson and remains in the frame for the vacant position at neighbours Leeds.
Clark’s odds to become the next manager of Leeds dropped from an opening 14-1 to 4-6 on yesterday’s news but the Yorkshire Post understands the Elland Road club have not lined him up as Grayson’s successor.
Grayson taking on the challenge at the Galpharm Stadium, on the other hand, is conceivable given he has twice orchestrated promotions from League One – with Blackpool in 2006-07 and Leeds in 2009-10.
Grayson is second favourite for the Town job behind former Sheffield United manager Warnock, who led Huddersfield to a promotion from the third division in 1994-95. Warnock has also been heavily linked to the positions at Leeds and Wolves.
Davies has been out of work since losing his job as Forest manager last summer. Of the other names in the frame, Mark Robins, at 16-1, left Barnsley last summer while former Hull City manager Phil Brown (14-1) was a recent guest at the Terriers’ home game with MK Dons.
Lillis is embarking on his third spell as a caretaker manager, having previously filled the void at Derby in 2002 and Stockport two years later.
Lillis made 206 appearances for Huddersfield from 1978-85.
The former Halifax Town manager (1999-2000) returned to the Galpharm in late December to take up the role of academy manager.