Aston Villa have sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo after just 123 days, the club have announced.
The Italian has left with Villa 19th in the Sky Bet Championship despite spending around £50m in the summer.
Di Matteo was appointed in June with a remit to gain an instant return to the Premier League after relegation last season but won just one of his 12 games in charge.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Preston proved the final straw and a Villa statement read: “Aston Villa Football Club has today parted company with manager Roberto Di Matteo.
“The club decided to act following a run of disappointing results which has left the team occupying 19th position in the Championship.
“The club would like to place on record its appreciation to Roberto for all his efforts in helping rebuild the squad and wish him well for the future.”
Assistant manager Steve Clarke will be in caretaker charge but Villa do not play again until after the international break, when they host Wolves on October 15.
Di Matteo’s reign is the shortest of any permanent Villa boss in the club’s history and they are now looking for their fifth full-time manager since February 2014.
The former Chelsea manager made nine signings in the summer, including spending £12million on Ross McCormack and £15million on Jonathan Kodjia, but the strikers have scored just three goals between them and McCormack had a penalty saved against Preston at the weekend.
He has also paid the price for Villa dropping 11 points in the final five minutes of games, when they have conceded five goals.
Villa’s net spend was £34million and Di Matteo had made assurances to the club’s hierarchy they would win promotion if they were in the top six at Christmas.
But they are 15 points behind leaders Huddersfield and owner Tony Xia, who bought the club in the summer, has acted – with Steve Bruce and Brentford boss Dean Smith linked to the vacancy.
Xia tweeted after the decision was announced: “A difficult decision 4the board. But rather sooner than later we’d make the decision. All need learn¬ repeat mistakes again & again.”