Roy Keane finally resigned as Sunderland manager despite the English Premier League club's best efforts to keep him.
|Should Keane have stayed on? [GALLO/GETTY]
Keane had been in talks with chairman Niall Quinn since suggesting publicly that Saturday's 4-1 home defeat to Bolton could have been his last in charge.
Quinn tried to persuade his former Ireland teammate to stay on, at least for the next three matches, but Keane insisted that it was in the club's best interests for him to leave.
"Roy Keane isn't resigning because we have a bad team," Quinn told a news conference.
"Roy Keane is resigning because he feels we have a good team he can't take forward."
The 37-year-old former Manchester United captain took over in August 2006 with Sunderland last in the second-tier League Championship.
He swiftly revived the team, leading it to the title and automatic promotion at the end of that season and then keeping it in the Premier League.
But Sunderland is currently 18th in the 20-team Premier League and again fighting relegation following four straight home defeats.
"Roy, as he says himself, is his harshest critic," Quinn said.
"He just felt he had reached the end of his journey here.
"He never once spoke about himself or about a settlement."
"I would like to thank my staff, players, Niall Quinn and in particular the fans for their support during my time at Sunderland and I would like to wish the club every success in the future," Keane said in a statement on Sunderland's web site.
Keane had questioned his future in management following his costly new signings' failure to significantly improve performances and said last week that he was not sure if he would be in charge when his contract expires at the end of the season.
In fact, he won't be in charge for Saturday's Premier League match at United after becoming the fifth manager to leave a topflight club this season.
Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth have all switched coach already.
|Could Sam Allardyce be Keane's replacement? [GALLO/GETTY]
First team coach Ricky Sbragia will temporarily take charge with Neil Bailey and Dwight Yorke alongside him, but Sam Allardyce was immediately rated a 6-4 favourite to succeed Keane full-time by British bookmaker Ladbrokes.
Allardyce, a former Sunderland defender who has been out of work since he was fired by Newcastle in January, was Sbragia's boss at Bolton.
Keane's struggle to find a winning combination was illustrated by his use of 27 players in 15 Premier League games this season, more than any other club.
"Roy's decision to stand aside and allow someone else to take charge of the next chapter sums up his desire to always do what is best for the club,'' Quinn said.
Keane's leadership abilities as an inspirational captain of United meant he had long been touted as a future manager.
He joined the Black Cats just two months after retiring from a playing career in which he won seven Premier League titles and four FA Cups with United.
Keane won plaudits from commentators for his apparent reinvention as a calm and collected coach, an identity at odds with his energy on the field, which occasionally manifested itself as fury and violence.
He could intimidate referees, confronted Patrick Vieira when the Arsenal captain challenged Gary Neville in the tunnel before a game, and attracted widespread criticism when he admitted that he deliberately injured Manchester City's Alf-Inge Haaland in revenge for a perceived slight four years earlier.
Keane walked out on Ireland at the 2002 World Cup following furious altercations with the coaching staff.
He left United three years later after a row with manager Alex Ferguson, who was unhappy that he had publicly criticised his teammates' performance and attitude.
But his unusual methods and driven personality seemed to work at Sunderland.
When three key players were late for the team coach ahead of a crucial trip to Barnsley in March 2007, Keane simply left them behind and the team still won 2-0.
As recently as October 25, Keane guided Sunderland to a 2-1 victory over fierce local rival Newcastle.
"He lifted this place off its knees," Quinn said.
"It's a shame today that things happened this way because five weeks ago people were dancing in the streets of Sunderland.
"Maybe now he can go and do some things I didn't let him do by getting to him so soon after he retired."