Stuart Gray’s dismissal at Sheffield Wednesday last night was both a surprise and no surprise at all.
Surprising in that Gray was a head coach who had done particularly well in his time at Hillsborough, last season leading the Owls to their third highest finish in the 15 years since relegation from the top flight.
Unsurprising, given the nature of modern football and the growing sense of unease surrounding Gray’s position.
Things have been quiet at Hillsborough since the end of the season. Too quiet.
In a summer expected to be particularly busy, there was no early big statement of intent after the end of last season. In fact, there have been no statements at all to declare the club’s hand, be they from the new owner, director of football or head coach.
Outward dialogue from the club has been scant to say the least.
In his solitary media appearance following the end of the season, Gray would speak only about the re-signing of Kieran Lee and nothing else.
Sporting advisors Paul Senior and Jonathan Hill have yet to speak publicly, more than a month after their appointment at the club. Glenn Roeder has only spoken once as a Sheffield Wednesday official, and that came on the day he was appointed.
Yet for several weeks, there has been a strong feeling that something was going on behind the scenes at Hillsborough, with Gray’s position as head coach looking all too vulnerable.
Speculation began about Dejphon Chansiri beginning to look elsewhere.
Benito Carbone - seemingly from nowhere - reaffirmed his desire to manage Wednesday, perhaps given the tip-off that change could be coming.
And things turned up a notch when it was claimed that Dan Petrescu had turned down the offer of a role with a Championship club. It was speculated to be the Owls and now that looks incredibly likely.
While the tide looked to be turning against Gray behind the scenes, his sacking will certainly prove to be controversial in some quarters.
His aforementioned 13th place finish in the Championship came at the end of a successful season, even if it tailed off towards its conclusion.
Gray did a remarkable job when he took the reins following the disastrous end to Dave Jones’ tenure, lifting the Owls from second bottom at the start of December to a comfortable 16th place finish with 12 wins in 30 matches.
The unquestionable highlight of his time in charge came on January 11, 2014 when Wednesday ran riot against Leeds United, smashing six past their bitter rivals without reply.
There was an optimistic air about Gray’s first - and now only - full season in charge, even though he had endured a summer clouded by the uncertainty over Haifz Mammadov’s proposed takeover.
And it panned out well, if unspectacular. But a steady campaign where the Owls flirted with the play-offs rather than relegation was welcome after the struggles since promotion back to the Championship.
Gray departs with the third best win percentage of any Owls manager in the post-Premier League era. His 37 per cent comes from games as a Championship manager, while the 45 per cent of Gary Megson and the 40 per cent of Alan Irvine came mainly in League One.
Gray’s side equalled a club record for most clean sheets in a season, heavily influenced by two of his signings, Keiren Westwood and Tom Lees.
But the blot against his name was the lack of goals in the team. Woefully toothless in front of goal at home, the good work at the other end was being overshadowed. He struggled to find a system which either increased the Owls threat or provided true entertainment.
Gray’s lack of personal starpower and charisma always seemed likely to catch up with him in the end.
His replacement is unlikely to be someone equally as low key.
While his name and his interviews rarely set the pulses racing, his personality made arguably the most important connection of all - with his players.
Not a bad word, both on and off the record, has been said about Gray during his time with the Owls. The players loved him and his approach to management.
Incredibly hands on, Gray could not be dragged away from the training pitch and the players appreciated both that and his incredible knowledge of the game.
He helped forge an incredibly tight-knit group, willing to battle for each other and their head coach until the end, as was evident on several occasions last season.
There will be plenty of sad faces among the playing staff this weekend.
He was the coach his title represented and seemed an ideal candidate to work in a director of football system, something identified by previous owner Milan Mandaric.
But it appears his name ultimately did not fit in Chansiri’s plans for the Owls, perhaps perceived not sexy enough to carry Wednesday back towards the Premier League.
Wednesday are now looking for a man to become their 11th permanent manager in 15 years. And stability looks a long way off yet again.