With rumors swirling that Gordon Strachan will return to the dugout, former Newcastle/Fulham/England manager Kevin Keegan — fast shaping up as a football Larry Brown (albiet with a far more distinguished playing career) — has jumped from the ledge at Manchester City before he could be pushed writes the Times’ Oliver Kay.

Kevin Keegan last night resigned as manager of Manchester City after discovering that the club™s board was making plans to replace him in the summer.

The former England head coach had announced his intention to retire at the end of next season, but he has decided to leave with immediate effect rather than outstay his welcome in what many will regard as a characteristic fit of pique, reminiscent of the manner in which he walked out on Newcastle United and England.

Further details of Keegan™s departure, officially by œmutual consent, will be announced at a press conference today, but it is understood that the club are shocked by the speed with which events have unfolded.

Just a week ago Keegan (above, once upon a time) said that he had œno intention of bringing forward his retirement date, despite the growing concerns expressed privately by club officials ” and publicly by David James, City™s England goalkeeper ” about the uncertainty over his position.

It emerged this week that the club™s board had drawn up a shortlist of candidates to replace him, including Martin O™Neill, the Celtic manager, Sam Allardyce, of Bolton Wanderers, and Iain Dowie, of Crystal Palace. It was thought that the board would retain Keegan™s services for the remainder of his five-year contract, until June 2006, but, having seemingly decided to bring that process forward to the summer, it was stunned by Keegan™s decision to leave immediately.

John Wardle, the City chairman, is expected to put Stuart Pearce, the first-team coach, in temporary charge of team affairs, although City™s next match is not until they visit Tottenham Hotspur a week tomorrow. The board must decide whether to try to fill the vacancy in the remaining months of the season, which seemingly would rule out any of the three leading candidates, or, more likely, to leave Pearce in charge until the summer while trying to find a long-term successor.