Fleetwood Town today begin the hunt for a new manager following the shock departure of Graham Alexander.
The Gazette understands chairman Andy Pilley made the decision to end Alexander’s two-year-nine-month tenure after Tuesday’s 5-1 defeat at Gillingham.
Pilley said the decision had been taken in the “best interests of the club.” The chairman said: “It is an extremely unpleasant part of being chairman having to make such a decision. However, ultimately, for a number of reasons I felt this was in the best interests of the club.
“I would like to place on record my personal thanks for the success Graham brought us with the promotion to League One, his supreme professionalism and for all the hard work he invested over his time here, and wish him all the best for the future.”
Former Burnley and Preston defender Alexander was appointed to his first managerial position at Highbury following the sacking of Micky Mellon in December 2012.
He guided Town to promotion through the play-offs in 2014, when Antoni Sarcevic’s Wembley goal took Town into League One. The club achieved their highest ever finish last season – 10th in the third tier.
But a difficult summer followed, when Alexander was tasked with overseeing a significant rebuild under tight financial constraints.
The manager was forced to part with many of his experienced hands and call upon young, untested talent. The start of the season gave cause for concern until four-goal victories over Bury and Colchester raised hopes.
But Town haven’t won in six, losing the last three. It seems Tuesday’s humiliation was the final straw for Pilley, who only this summer backed Alexander to oversee Fleetwood’s transformation from a club reliant on a benefactor to one able to sustain itself financially.
This may have made Highbury less attractive but there shouldn’t be any shortage of applicants.
Experienced managers out of work include Steve Evans, Darren Ferguson – an early favourite for the role – Nigel Clough and Paul Dickov, as well as former Blackpool bosses Lee Clark and Ian Holloway.
Holloway would appear an outside bet but his former assistant Steve Thompson may well be on the chairman’s shortlist.
Pilley is understood to have sought Thompson as a replacement for Mellon but Pool were unwilling to release him at the time.
Now on the coaching staff at Preston North End, he may be tempted to make the short move to Highbury.
Alternatively, Fleetwood could look to appoint from within. Barry Nicholson is causing a stir with his development squad, while director of football Stuart Murdoch has a pedigree in the dugout, having guided Wimbledon through their move to Milton Keynes.
Alexander’s backroom staff is mainly made up of former Deepdale team-mates, whose Highbury futures are uncertain. It is not yet clear who will take charge for Saturday’s trip to Scunthorpe.