LONDON, February 7- English Premier League strugglers West Bromwich Albion sacked Italian coach Roberto di Matteo on Sunday, after a 3-0 defeat at Manchester City left them only two points above the relegation zone.
"West Bromwich Albion have today relieved head coach Roberto di Matteo of his duties and placed him on gardening leave with immediate effect," read a statement on the club website.
"This was the unanimous decision of the football club’s board of directors in light of a worrying sequence of results which has seen the club lose 13 of their last 18 games in all competitions, winning only three.
"First-team coach Michael Appleton will assume control of first-team affairs whilst the club considers all available options for a new head coach."
A stunned di Matteo clearly hadn’t seen the end of his time at The Hawthorns on the horizon and, in a statement released through the League Managers’ Asssociation (LMA), he said: "I was extremely surprised and disappointed to be relieved of my duties today (Sunday).
"Winning promotion to the Premier League with West Brom last season was without doubt one of the highlights of my career and certainly my managerial career.
"Playing in this league is tough and we have had to compete against some fantastic sides but we have shown that we can compete with the best.
"Apart from the first week of the season, the club has not been in the bottom three and has an important run of home fixtures coming up.
"I am disappointed that I don’t now have the chance to lead the team through this crucial period and keep them in the league.
"I wish the players well over the coming weeks and I thank them for the hard work they have put in and the great attitude they have shown."
He added: I would like to thank the staff at the club and of course the most loyal and fantastic fans, with whom I had a great relationship during my time at the club."
Di Matteo, a former Italy international midfielder who played for Lazio and Chelsea, had been in the job since June 2009, having previously worked at League One (third tier) side Milton Keynes Dons.
"This has been a tough decision," said West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace.
"But we, as a board, believe it is the right one to give the club the best possible chance of remaining in the Premier League."
However, LMA chief executive Richard Bevan slammed the decision to sack di Matteo, who only four months ago was the English top-flight’s manager of the month, saying: "Roberto represents yet another victim of the ‘hire and fire’ mentality that pervades in our game.
"The club has big games ahead, against Wolves and West Ham, and you have to question the decision to sack the manager.
"It is in exactly situations like these that we all want to see clubs back the individuals they have employed rather than see the sack as a quick-fix panacea," he added.