By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer
Glenn Roeder's sacking at West Ham United may be regarded as cruel by the misguided few who believe a sliver of sentiment still exists in football.
Harsher critics will suggest Roeder would have gone after West Ham's relegation had he not been struck down by serious illness shortly before the end of last season.
One thing is certain - Roeder's departure was only a matter of time once the Upton Park directors shamelessly sold off the family silver.
Once Glen Johnson, Trevor Sinclair, Freddie Kanoute and Joe Cole left Upton Park, Roeder was a condemned man unless the Hammers made a flying start in Division One.
Sadly for Roeder, it was more like a flying farce.
Even the opening day win at Preston was overshadowed by a vicious attack launched on Roeder by match-winner David Connolly, one of the manager's few summer signings.
Connolly was furious at being replaced by new loan signing from Liverpool Neil Mellor, who had been picked up at a service station en route to Lancashire.
Perhaps the final straw was the ridiculous refusal to use the dressing room facilities at Millmoor for the match at Rotherham.
It sent out every sort of wrong signal from Roeder - irrespective of who actually made the final decision.
It said West Ham felt they were better than some of the clubs they were being "forced" to face - a fact their early season performances hardly backed up.
It said West Ham were not actually acquainted with the battling attitude they would need to cope with locations they did not regard as glamorous enough for them.
GLENN ROEDER FACTFILE
May 2001: Roeder is appointed caretaker manager after Harry Redknapp's sacking
June 2001: Roeder lands the job as West Ham manager on a full-time basis
February 2002: Roeder agrees a new three-year contract
May 2002: West Ham finish seventh in the Premiership
April 2003: Roeder is taken ill after a dismal season and requires brain surgery
May 2003: West Ham are relegated as Roeder recuperates
July 2003: Roeder returns to work at West Ham
August 2003: Roeder is sacked after defeat at Rotherham United
And when West Ham's insult to Rotherham and the First Division in general was compounded by the injury of defeat, the circus was leaving town.
Roeder has remained a dignified presence throughout a troubled reign at West Ham, even winning over the many sceptics inside Upton Park by guiding the club to seventh in his first season.
And his courage can never be doubted after he battled back from brain surgery to take charge again when pre-season training resumed in July.
But once the asset-stripping started, Roeder was always going to pay the price if results were not right.
Some may even say the sack will be a merciful release for Roeder, given the turmoil surrounding West Ham.
But last term was a disaster, with the failure to win a home league game for five months compounded by a crushing 6-0 FA Cup defeat at Manchester United.
Even if Roeder's sacking cures some of the ills at West Ham, the club's directors cannot be allowed to dodge the criticism that will rightly fly.
Roeder's departure should not act as a shield for directors against the feelings of angry fans who justifiably feel betrayed.
If they feel sacrificing the manager may save their own skins, they may be sadly mistaken.
West Ham fans are almost uniquely protective of their club, and they deserve better than all that has happened in the past 12 months.
Roeder may be the first casualty inside West Ham's corridors of power - but it will take quite a turnaround and a miracle managerial appointment to ensure he is not the last.