DOWN AND OUT

WIGAN ATHLETIC (3) vs WEST HAM (2)

● West Ham sack Grant minutes after relegation

● Hughton and Allardyce tipped as replacements

FORMER Newcastle managers Chris Hughton and Sam Allardyce were last night installed as the bookmakers’ favourites to replace Avram Grant, after he was sacked for failing to avoid relegation.

Hammers owners David Sullivan and David Gold fired Grant within an hour of the final whistle at the DW Stadium, where the visitors squandered a two-goal lead in a match they needed to win to retain hope of survival.

Two goals from striker Demba Ba had put them on course for a crucial three points, only for Wigan to storm back with two from forward Charles N’Zogbia and another from substitute Conor Sammon.

Grant, speaking after the match but before his departure had been announced, said it had been the “most sad day” of his career. He added: “I’m also sorry for the supporters, the people in the club and the players. Maybe this game was the story of our season. It’s a tough day.”

The club confirmed his departure after less than a season in charge in a statement that read: “The club can confirm that Avram Grant is no longer the manager of West Ham United. First-team coach Kevin Keen will take charge of the team for the final home match of the season against Sunderland on Sunday 22 May.”

Birmingham’s unlikely loss at home to Fulham meant West Ham would have had a chance of staging a dramatic final-day escape next weekend had they held onto their lead against Wigan – but they did not.

Instead they are doomed to finish last and sink back to the second tier for the first time since 2005, while Grant is contemplating the end of his third short-lived spell in charge of an English club.

Just 12 months ago the Israeli took financially crippled Portsmouth down, and resigned days later, while in 2008 he was sacked by Chelsea having narrowly missed out on winning both the Premier League and Champions League.

The future looks bleak for the Hammers, who are already £80m in debt. Gold said last week he and Sullivan would have to inject up to £40m of their own money into the club in order to keep it afloat.

A summer exodus of players, led by captain and Football Writers’ Player of the Year Scott Parker, looks inevitable, while attention also turns to recruiting Grant’s successor.

Hughton is desperate for a return to management and told City A.M. last month that he would be prepared to work in the Championship, while Allardyce boasts a higher profile but may prefer to wait for a top-flight vacancy.

The Hammers almost replaced Grant with former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill in January, only for the Northern Irishman to have a last-minute change of heart.