The Irish Football Association will demand compensation from Fulham following Lawrie Sanchez’s sudden departure as Northern Ireland manager after accusing the Barclays Premiership club of reneging on a previous agreement.
The governing body were clearly stung by the timing of his exit and said they would be considering their position over the next few days.
Sanchez still had a way to run on his contract with the IFA, which was due to expire at the end of their participation in Euro 2008.
The province are in with a chance of qualifying for a major championship for the first time in over 20 years.
They head Group F on 13 points following the superb victory against Sweden in March.
Now, though, they are looking for a new manager after Sanchez’s promotion from his caretaker-role at Fulham. Liechtenstein are Northern Ireland’s next opponents in August.
Sanchez felt he could combine both jobs but apparently under pressure decided to focus on club not country.
IFA president Jim Boyce revealed that they had business with Fulham to resolve after the manager’s three-year tenure came to an end.
He told Sky Sports: “Lawrie told me he tried to persuade Fulham he could do both jobs until the end of the European Championships.
“But he was told he either had to resign as Northern Ireland manager or not be considered for the Fulham job.
“It was Fulham’s decision, 100%. Lawrie has a contract with the Irish Football Association and he has now broken that.
“We were approached five weeks ago for Lawrie to manage Fulham on a caretaker basis.
“The IFA agreed but were assured that should he be offered the job full-time he would be allowed to manage Northern Ireland through to the end of the European Championship.
“We probably have the best chance of qualifying for a long time and now our manager has been taken away from us.”
Sanchez arrived in January 2004 after leading unsung Wycombe to the FA Cup semi-finals.
Under the former Wimbledon midfielder’s stewardship, Northern Ireland rose from being a team that went 1298 minutes with scoring to one currently ranked 33 in the world.
Sweden were not the only team to suffer at Windsor Park. England and Spain also left with their reputations in tatters after inglorious defeats.
Sanchez made Leeds striker David Healy the focal point of the team and that proved to be a masterstroke.
He shrugged off his indifferent form in the Coca-Cola Championship to score nine goals in the qualifying campaign and 29 in 56 international appearances.
Boyce added: “Lawrie has always said he would like to manage in the Premiership and he goes with my best wishes.
“I hold him in the very highest esteem. He’s done a tremendous job for Northern Ireland.
“I wish him all the very best but I am disappointed in the way it has happened.”