Derby County have sacked head coach Paul Clement after just eight months in charge of the Championship club.
The Rams are fifth in the table after seven league games without a victory, though chairman Mel Morris said promotion “was not the primary target”.
Morris said Derby had “not made enough progress” under 44-year-old Clement, formerly assistant manager at Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Academy director Darren Wassall will take over for the rest of the season. The 47-year-old played for the Rams between 1992 and 1997.
Clement, who replaced Steve McClaren at the iPro Stadium in June, was given funds to strengthen his squad during pre-season.
He twice broke the club’s transfer record – signing Hull winger Thomas Ince for £4.75m and Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson for £6m.
The Rams failed to win any of their first six matches under Clement before improving to force their way into contention for promotion.
But their latest poor run has seen them slip five points below second-placed Middlesbrough and only three points inside the top six.
Next season is the start of the Premier League’s new £5.1bn three-year television rights deal, which means the club that finishes bottom of the division will pocket £99m.
Morris said the club had worked with Clement to “develop a plan” that made it clear promotion was not a priority this season. He added the “clear” plan was “briefed” to the club’s supporters, players and sponsors in the summer.
“The priorities were building on the Derby way and style of football enjoyed in the past two seasons, adding depth and strength to our playing squad; and, developing and improving player and team performance,” he said.
“Sadly, on these measurements, we have not made enough progress and that is why we have decided to part company with Paul.
“I firmly believe that we have one of the very best first-team squads in this league. Our players are highly talented professionals who are more than capable of winning games at this level and beyond.”
In November, Morris, who is also the club’s owner, said he thought Clement could become Derby’s Sir Alex Ferguson by building a lasting dynasty.
‘The Derby Way? Why not the Wimbledon Way?’ – 5 live’s Monday Night Club
‘Win first, style second’
Sean Dyche, manager of third-placed Burnley, said it was a “tough ask” for a manager to get several new signings playing “really fluid and free-flowing” football in the space of six months.
“It is win first and build a style of football second,” Dyche told BBC Radio 5 live’s Monday Night Club. “It takes time to mould a team. In this case I think there were good signs. They are on 51 points, it is not like they are struggling in mid-table wondering where they are going.”
Former Leicester striker and BBC Radio 5 live pundit Steve Claridge added: “If you are a Derby fan, what would you think when your club is coming out and say our primary concern is not getting promoted this season? What are we doing then?
“It feels like a contradiction. Where has this Derby way come from? It’s quite a fashionable way of getting rid of someone, but I’m not quite sure I understand the full mechanics of it.”
‘Our focus is to get the team back on track’
Of the decision to put Wassall in control, chief executive Sam Rush said: “We are in the fortunate position to have somebody as capable as Darren at our football club.
“Our focus is to get the team back on track, delivering the style of football and performance we know they are capable of.”
Earlier on Monday, former Nottingham Forest defender Des Walker joined Derby as academy coach.