(Adds president naming successor)
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Sporting Gijon parted company with coach Abelardo Fernandez on Tuesday following a downward spiral of results that has left them in the relegation zone, with former Levante boss Joan Francesc Ferrer Sicilia “Rubi” set to take his place.
“After a meeting between the club’s board of directors today Real Sporting have decided, by mutual agreement with Abelardo Fernandez, that he will leave his role as coach of the first team,” the club said in a statement.
”The decision has been taken after analysing the team’s situation and results.
”Real Sporting wishes to show its gratitude for the commitment, effort and professionalism of “Pitu” Abelardo while in charge of the team and for his disposition in signing the agreement to depart the club, which will always be his home.
“The club wishes him every luck in the future.”
Club President Javier Fernandez told Spanish station Cadena Ser on Tuesday that former Girona, Valladolid and Levante coach Rubi would take charge for the remainder of the campaign, though his appointment has not been officially confirmed.
Abelardo, a native of Gijon, came through the club’s academy and played as a centre back for them for five years until joining Barcelona in 1994. He coached the club’s reserve side in two separate spells before taking over the first team in 2014.
Despite being subject to a transfer ban due to the club’s financial problems, Abelardo led Sporting back to La Liga after a three-year absence in his first full season and helped them avoid relegation on the final day of the last campaign.
His impact has waned in his third season in charge, however, with his side winning just three of 18 league games.
They have lost their last four league encounters to leave them 18th in the standings on 12 points, four below 17th-placed Valencia, who also have a game in hand. (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis/Peter Rutherford)