Roberto De Zerbi said Albion’s season changed on the night they lost to Wolves in the FA Cup.

But it was an evening in Rome eight days later which fuelled belief that he could be on his way.

Albion fans are preparing to give the head coach a fitting send-off when his team play Manchester United today.

What sort of send-off it will be remains to be seen.

One imagines it will be very positive. He has taken Albion to undreamt of heights in terms of individual results, league position, Europe, entertainment, development of players and style of football.

All concerned obviously think the reaction around the stands will be positive in the extreme to have announced his departure ahead of the game.

It is a shame similar could not have somehow happened with Chris Hughton, although one can see why that would have been very difficult.

Or maybe there is an element of De Zerbi being told to face the music.

Either way, for something that so many people had predicted and speculated about for so long, news that the Italian and his coaching team are actually on their way came as a shock when it happened.

We don’t know the inside story although we know he had opened talks with Tony Bloom and Paul Barber.

We also know he spoke about Bloom needing to improve after that defeat at Roma.

And himself. And players and the club as a whole. The call for improvement was not just about Bloom, as I pointed out immediately and RDZ has since stressed himself.

He had seemed unhappy with the work done in the January transfer window, when Albion had the chance to bolster a depleted squad.

Although he has since looked to clarify that comment about “the president” in a busy media room at the Stadio Olimpico, I am very confident he has since regretted saying it.

And yet signs had pointed to him being on board for next season.

Speaking on Friday afternoon, De Zerbi said: “We are going to speak to Tony and Paul Barber to organise everything.

“The players we have are very good.

“We can’t forget that after five or six games we were top with Manchester City, and we had scored 22 goals in five games.

“We finished our group in the Europa League in first position and conceded less goals than Marseille or Ajax.

“After February we then suffered too much. After the FA Cup game with Wolves. The season changed and before we lost in Rome. We were already suffering.

“I don’t like making excuses because I always took my responsibilities. But I have to be honest.”

At times we have all asked about the future.

When he spoke about needing to know the target at Albion, I said to him surely he already knew about the project, the way Bloom and Albion work and that no-one’s ambition for the club is greater than that of the chairman.

Recently, I asked him what the club could achieve in the super-rich Premier League but the answer was about young players showing what they can do in the final weeks of the season.

On Friday, I asked about his vision for Albion next season.

He said: “This club is serious. The people inside this club are serious.

“If you are serious, you improve day by day, game by game and season by season.

“For that I have no doubt.”

Improvement step by step has been Albion’s way probably since 2010.

It is the meticulous Bloom method.

Maybe it was not fast enough for De Zerbi.

If that is so, it is a shame because there was so much more he could have done here.

His job was far from finished.

But if there was no way back, it is the right call to act decisively.