Alan Curbishley is the front runner to be named the West Ham manager after the club's new owners today sacked Alan Pardew.
A string of bad performances which led to West Ham slipping into the bottom three proved too much for Icelandic chairman Eggert Magnusson, who brought Pardew's Upton Park three-year reign to an abrupt end.
Curbishley, the former Charlton boss, is the outstanding candidate to be Pardew's successor - he is a free agent and he has all the credentials to fit Magnusson's requirements for a manager with a proven track record in Premiership football.
Sven-Goran Eriksson's name has also been touted but the former England manager's assistant Tord Grip has insisted they are not going to West Ham.
Magnusson will now seek to appoint a successor before the January transfer window in time for new signings to be made.
A club statement announced Pardew's departure, saying: 'Alan has made an important contribution since joining as manager in September 2003 but this season's results have been disappointing and have left the club in a very difficult position.
'The chairman, Mr Eggert Magnusson, and the board have been concerned by the performances of recent weeks and feel that it is the right time to make a change in the best interests of the club.'
First-team coach Kevin Keen will take temporary charge of team affairs until a new appointment has been made - and his first Himalayan task will be to try to prepare the team for Manchester United's visit on Sunday.
Magnusson had promised to keep faith with Pardew, and the pair had held meetings about possible targets for the January transfer window, but the club's slide into the bottom three caused alarm bells to ring.
The chairman and Icelandic banking mogul Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the man who provided most of the cash for the £85million takeover, were rattled by the 4-0 defeat at Bolton at the weekend, and Wigan's 2-0 win at Upton Park in mid-week.
The new owners have made contingency plans in the event of relegation but the consortium's business plan was very much targeted to West Ham remaining in the top flight and taking advantage of the bumper new Premier League TV rights deal that comes on stream next season.
Pardew himself said he left the club feeling proud of his achievements.
'When I took the helm they were in the Championship and struggling to find direction,' he told the club's website. 'In two consecutive seasons we qualified for the play-offs, ultimately achieving the Premiership status the club so richly deserve.
'I am also proud of our first season back in the top flight in which we finished ninth and came so close to winning the FA Cup.
'The supporters have stood by me and I will always cherish memories of their support and loyalty during the difficulties of this season.
'I am proud most of all of the players, many of whom have developed into top Premiership performers under the tutelage of myself and my backroom staff.
'The coaching and medical staff at Upton Park are second to none and I want to wish the new chairman Eggert Magnusson and the club every success for the future.'
Magnusson had jokingly warned last week that it would be Pardew's 'throat that will be cut' if the results were poor.
Bookmakers make Curbishley 2-5 favourite with Eriksson 4-1 and Terry Venables 8-1.