MANCHESTER, England (AP)Steven Gerrard had only just finished telling interviewers he would fight on at Aston Villa when the announcement came.

”Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that head coach Steven Gerrard has left the club with immediate effect,” the club said in a statement Thursday. ”We would like to thank Steven for his hard work and commitment and wish him well for the future.”

It felt particularly cruel that Gerrard would be thrust in front of the cameras to defend his position if, as appears, his fate had already been sealed by a 3-0 loss to Fulham minutes earlier.

Villa fans had called for him to be fired after a result that left his team just above the relegation zone.

”It’s tough,” he told Amazon Prime. ”I’m a man, I accept it, I feel their frustrations, I’m frustrated. It was a tough night for me personally.

”We will see what happens. I’m a fighter, I will never, ever quit anything whether it’s football or in life.”

Fulham fans had mercilessly taunted Gerrard with chants of ”Sacked in the morning.”

They underestimated the speed with which Villa would act – ending his reign after less than a year in charge, amid growing speculation that Mauricio Pochettino is the dream target to replace him.

It has been a rapid fall from grace for Gerrard, who led Rangers to the Scottish title in his first job in management and was tipped to take charge at his beloved Liverpool in the future.

It could be a long way back for him now after failing to arrest Villa’s slide, which began back in March and has resulted in just four wins in the last 22 Premier League games.

His team looked devoid of confidence against Fulham and defeat left it level on points with Wolverhampton in 18th.

Harrison Reed and Aleksandar Mitrovic put the home team in control on a night when Douglas Luiz was sent off and Tyrone Mings also put one into his own net.

While Gerrard’s reign has come to a sorry end, his former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is providing a glimmer of hope to Leicester fans who were fearing the worst just a few weeks ago.

A 2-0 win against Leeds moved Rodgers’ team off the foot of the Premier League and to within a point of Villa.

For the first time this season, Leicester is looking upward in hope, rather than despondency.

Seven of its eight points this term have been picked up in the last four games to suggest Rodgers has turned a corner after such a desperate start.

And with the bottom of the table so congested, with just three points separating 13th-placed West Ham and Leicester in 19th, Rodgers will believe he can continue to move in the right direction.

An own goal from Robin Koch and then a Harvey Barnes strike saw off an uninspired Leeds, which is above the relegation zone on goal difference only.

WOLVES WAIT

If Villa was in a hurry to make a change, Midlands rival and fellow relegation struggler Wolverhampton has decided to take a more patient approach to a new appointment.

Caretaker boss Steve Davis will stay in charge until the new year, the club confirmed Thursday after QPR head coach Michael Beale rejected the chance to move to Molineux.

”We have no plans to rush our search for a new permanent head coach and will not compromise in any way our approach to appointing the person we believe to be the perfect fit for our club, our squad and the role of head coach at Wolves,” said chairman Jeff Shi.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson