Ailing York City today started the hunt for a successor to Alan Little after he was sacked as manager.

Contender: Rudge

Little's six years in charge at Bootham Crescent - and 11 seasons at the club - came to an abrupt halt when his contract was terminated by the club's board of directors.

The sacked Little made a brief and final appearance at City's ground this morning to say farewell to the players and staff. But he declined to make any comment opting for the dust to settle first.

Chairman Douglas Craig, who was hurt at losing his 'friend', said he and fellow directors would discuss how to fill the vacancy over the next 48 hours. For now player-coach Neil Thompson has been confirmed as player-manager.

Little, who was the third longest-serving City boss and the sixth longest-serving in English football, proved the major casualty of City's fall through the table.

Crucially he had lost the support of the fans, who roundly barracked him during and after Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Notts County left the club hovering just above the relegation zone. In an alarming dip from ninth to 19th position City had mustered a mere two points from the last ten games.

Over the weekend the critical factor in his demise was that he had finally lost the support of the board, who, after a meeting at the ground, brought his reign to an end.

Dismayed chairman Craig, who announced the sacking as the most dramatic opener to last night's fans' forum, revealed it was one of the toughest decisions he had had to take in his time in charge.

And he labelled fans at the forum who cheered the news of the sacking as 'despicable'.

Craig said Little was a 'decent family man'. He said: "It was a very difficult decision to make because Alan Little is one of the decent guys in football. He has been a very loyal and very honest manager and it's unfortunate in that it doesn't always work out for the good guys.

"I feel for him and his family, who are good, decent people."

Craig said Little, who was on a roll-on contract thought to only be about six months in length, would be paid up by the club.

The City chairman seethed with anger at the initial reaction of many of the 250-300 fans who attended the forum at Queen Anne's School. Applause rang out with cheers at which Craig railed: "I find your attitude totally despicable."

As the crowd became silent the chairman added: "This is his 11th season as one of the most honest and loyal servants and managers this club has ever had." That brought several cries of 'hear, hear'.

Little's successes, insisted the chairman, had been considerable in getting the club out of the basement into Division Two and then maintaining the club at that level for the longest length of time - six seasons - in its history.

But the tide began to turn against the manager in the aftermath of the reverse at Notts County, where City slid to their eighth defeat in ten games.

Craig and fellow directors spoke by telephone over the weekend and then determined to hold a meeting with Little yesterday. After the subsequent board meeting Little was called in to be informed his contract was being terminated. Talks will be held over the next 48 hours over whether City will advertise the vacancy. But Craig insisted that 'heaven and earth, would be moved to get in two players' - a central defender and central midfielder - before the transfer deadline just nine days away.

With just 11 games to go, starting with the visit of free-scoring Wigan Athletic on Saturday, City need also to find the man to lead them out of relegation danger.

Tommo targeting hot-seat

Player-coach Neil Thompson has thrown his hat into the managerial ring after he acclaimed the work of the man who brought him to York City.

Axed boss Alan Little lured the veteran defender to Bootham Crescent a year ago, initially on loan from Barnsley.

Thompson, today confirmed as caretaker-manager 'for the time being', made such an impact that not only did he clinch a permanent move, he was also upgraded to player-coach at the end of last season, instrumental in a revival that fended off the threat of the drop.

Thompson is viewed by many as being a strong candidate to succeed the man who gave him his City chance.

Declared the Beverley-born Thompson: "Certainly if the opportunity arose there would be no question of me not being interested in it.

"It might be a bit early, but management is something I've wanted to do and to get into.

"But first of all I would like to go on record in acknowledging Alan Little's 11 years of great service to this club. His commitment and endeavour will never be forgotten.

"In this past year he has certainly helped me a lot and I am appreciative for that."

Thompson had the backing of several quarters at last night's fans' forum at Queen Anne's school, where he said that as a player he and his team-mates had to shoulder a large portion of the blame for City's current plight.

"People might blame Alan Little, but it's us, the players, who go out on to the pitch. The nature of the beast is that the manager is the fall guy, but I have a lot of respect and admiration for him," said the player-coach.

"As players we should take the brunt of it. We have to take part of the blame."

He remained confident though that City could scramble clear of the drop.

"We have got ourselves in this situation and we can get ourselves out of it. There are a lot of games to go and enough time to do it."

If Thompson is in pole position as being the man already at the club, then there are several outsiders reckoned as possible candidates to become City's 18th full-time manager.

City chairman Douglas Craig said there had been no discussion whatsoever yet on a possible successor, but if the post is advertised then it could be targeted by John Rudge.

Respected throughout the game he is now out of work after being sacked by Port Vale, where he had 15 successful years, shrewdly operating on limited resources.

Former Lincoln City and Sheffield United manager Steve Thompson is also a possibility. Coincidentally he was at City's defeat by Notts County at Meadow Lane four days ago. Other names bandied around at last night's meeting were rather more fanciful, including ex-England boss Glenn Hoddle and former football hardman Vinnie Jones.

Also mooted was one-time Bradford City boss Chris Kamara, while there were cries for a player-manager in the mould of former City boss Denis Smith. Into that category were claims from the floor for Everton stoppers Dave Watson and ex-Pickering Town and Scarborough ace Craig Short.

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