George Burley has been sacked as manager of Ipswich Town, less than 18 months after leading the club to fifth position in the Premier League and a place in the UEFA Cup.

Ipswich were relegated last season and have begun the new campaign poorly, lying 19th. The final straw for Burley was the 3-0 defeat to second-from-bottom Grimsby on Tuesday night.

After repeated near-misses, Burley finally led Ipswich to the Premier League via the play-offs in May 2000. Their first season in the top-flight was an unqualified success, with Ipswich surprising most onlookers by finishing fifth, narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot, but quallifying for the UEFA Cup.

Things began to go wrong the following year when Ipswich began the season poorly, were unable to recover and dropped back down to Division 1. Ironically, despite their relegation, the club qualified for the UEFA Cup again this season, by virtue of winning the Fair Play league.

The decision to sack Burley, who was the fourth longest serving manager in the league, was described as a ‘difficult decision’.

“It is with great sadness that the Board of Directors have taken the difficult decision to relieve George Burley from his position as manager,” announced Town Chairman David Sheepshanks on the club’s official website.

“I would like to place on record our immense thanks to George for his outstanding service and many tremendous achievements throughout his tenure.

“He is a man of honour and integrity and his many skills will no doubt lead to further opportunities and successes in his managerial career. We wish him the very best and every success in the future.

“However, after the heady successes of our first year back in The Premiership, last season was a year of bitter disappointments, which culminated in our losing Premiership status. This was despite a huge investment in additional players for combined transfer fees of approaching œ15 million.

“The board still took the view that George Burley was the right man to lead us back to The Premiership, but this season, even though retaining a Premiership squad, performances have not improved.

“Given our single minded ambition to gain promotion this season the directors have decided that it is time to draw a line under a frustrating twelve months. As custodians of Ipswich Town Football Club the board have acted now in order to give new management the best possible chance of achieving our goal.

“We have given Tony Mowbray the responsibility of managing first team affairs in a caretaker role. The board will interview candidates for manager in the coming days and weeks amongst whom Tony Mowbray will be considered.