DEAN Saunders last night sensationally departed Doncaster Rovers to become the new manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 48-year-old is thought to have penned a lucrative one-year rolling contract at Molineux after holding successful talks with Wolves chairman Steve Morgan - a Liverpool fanatic.
Saunders is set to be officially unveiled as the new Wolves manager today after the Championship strugglers agreed a compensation package with Doncaster last night.
Rovers chairman John Ryan, meanwhile, has revealed exclusively to The Star he currently has a list of six potential candidates to replace Saunders, one of whom is currently in employment, and hopes to appoint a replacement by next week.
“I’m very sad to see Dean go,” Ryan told The Star last night, minutes after the deal was completed.
“We worked really well as a team, along with Gavin Baldwin [chief executive], and it’s disappointing to see Dean leave. But it’s a chance of a lifetime for him. We couldn’t stand in his way.
“The search for his successor is on the go already, I’ve been working on that today,” he added.
“We will put a procedure into effect this week and hopefully get someone in place next week.”
Saunders will take his assistant Brian Carey and fitness guru Mal Purchase with him to Wolves, where he replaces sacked Norwegian Stale Solbakken who lost his job after Wanderers’ 1-0 FA Cup defeat at non-league Luton Town.
Former Wales caretaker boss Brian Flynn, who has been working for Rovers as a scout, and captain Rob Jones will take temporary charge of team affairs at the Keepmoat.
Saunders was recommended to Merseysider Morgan via his connections in Liverpool.
Wolves’ chairman is also believed to have sounded out contacts at the Welshman’s former club Wrexham as early as last week as he made Saunders his number one choice to replace Solbakken.
And the lure of moving to a club steeped in tradition, with the resources to significantly strengthen the squad, proved too tempting for Saunders.
Saunders leaves Doncaster having won over the majority of his doubters following relegation from the Championship. He built a team that are hard to beat and look well placed to push for an instant return to the second tier.
Rovers co-owners Ryan and Dick Watson are due to address supporters at a fans’ forum at the Keepmoat tonight.