Man­ager on the brink as club be­gins re­build­ing Le­ices­ter saviour the favourite to take over

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - FRONT PAGE - By John Percy

Rémi Garde is set to be dis­missed by As­ton Villa this week as the Premier League strug­glers con­tinue their prepa­ra­tions for next sea­son.

Garde’s night­mare five months in charge could be of­fi­cially ended on Mon­day, with for­mer Le­ices­ter man­ager Nigel Pear­son al­ready emerg­ing as the No 1 tar­get to suc­ceed him.

Villa chair­man Steve Hollis will sack Garde af­ter the sixth suc­ces­sive league de­feat at Swansea on Satur­day, in a ruth­less cull which has al­ready seen chief ex­ec­u­tive Tom Fox and sport­ing di­rec­tor Hen­drik Alm­stadt axed.

Garde has been a dead man walk­ing since the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow closed and his fore­cast that he would be sacked be­fore the end of the sea­son.

The French­man is al­leged to have told Fox that he would not sur­vive un­til the sum­mer af­ter Villa failed to make a sin­gle sign­ing in the win­dow, leav­ing him badly ex­posed as man­ager with an un­der­per­form­ing squad.

Villa’s board had promised Garde money to spend in the talks lead­ing up to his ap­point­ment in Novem­ber. But a num­ber of play­ers in­clud­ing Sey­dou Doumbia and Lovre Kalinic slipped through his fin­gers and since the win­dow closed Garde’s mood has changed dra­mat­i­cally at the train­ing ground.

His hopes of lead­ing a re­vival were also dam­aged by the fact that he had told many play­ers, in­clud­ing Gabriel Ag­bon­la­hor, Micah Richards and Li­bor Kozak that they could leave in Jan­uary – only to then be forced to go back and ask them to play af­ter Villa re­fused to sell them.

In Fe­bru­ary he an­noyed mem­bers of the squad by ques­tion­ing their com­mit­ment and his body lan­guage in press con­fer­ences and af­ter games has con­cerned Hollis and the new board. Garde has spo­ken ex­ten­sively with new board mem­bers David Bern­stein and Mervyn King over the past week and Hollis is ready to wield the axe, days af­ter brand­ing him one of the best man­agers in Europe.

Pear­son is likely to be tar­geted in the sum­mer as the board pri­ori­tise a man­ager with ex­pe­ri­ence of the Cham­pi­onship. Sacked by Le­ices­ter at the end of last sea­son, Pear­son’s stock re­mains high af­ter he guided them to sur­vival with seven wins from the fi­nal nine games.

He is a free agent and keen to make his re­turn to man­age­ment, with his tough rep­u­ta­tion pre­cisely what Villa re­quire as they be­gin to re­build.

Steve Bruce, the Hull City man­ager, has been dis­cussed but his con­nec­tions with ri­vals Birm­ing­ham make a move un­likely.

Af­ter such a dis­as­trous sea­son Villa be­lieve a move for Bruce would risk dam­ag­ing their re­la­tion­ship with sup­port­ers and it is deemed too much of a gam­ble at a time when bridges need to be built.

Kevin MacDon­ald and Eric Black, Garde’s No 2, could take over for the rest of the sea­son. Coach Regi­nald Ray, who was ap­pointed by Garde af­ter leav­ing Bas­tia, will be an­other ca­su­alty this week.

Garde has only man­aged two Premier League wins and suf­fered 12 de­feats with the team head­ing for an in­evitable rel­e­ga­tion.

Af­ter the Swansea de­feat his de­meanour could not have been more down­beat.

He said: “I am un­der con­tract with As­ton Villa and there is no ques­tion about that. This foot­ball club had a lot of prob­lems over the last few years and we are all in this sit­u­a­tion.

“We have to fight un­til the last minute and we all have to keep go­ing. When I see the team play­ing like that I am not happy, I am very sad like all the fans, but some­times in foot­ball you need more.”

Ap­pointed on a £4 mil­lion-a-year con­tract af­ter the sack­ing of Tim Sher­wood in Oc­to­ber, Garde ar­rived at Villa Park with an im­pres­sive stand­ing in Europe.

A for­mer player at Arse­nal, he had worked won­ders at Lyon, com­pet­ing in the Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League, es­tab­lish­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for bring­ing through tal­ented young play­ers.

How­ever, Villa prodigy Jack Gre­al­ish tested Garde’s pa­tience soon af­ter his ar­rival, be­ing ban­ished to the un­der-21s af­ter he was pho­tographed on a night out in Manch­ester hours af­ter a heavy de­feat at Ever­ton.

Garde also clashed with Ag­bon­la­hor and Charles N’Zog­bia early in his reign af­ter both play­ers were al­leged to have com­plained about the in­ten­sity of train­ing.

Dur­ing and af­ter a 1-1 draw at League Two Wy­combe Wan­der­ers in the FA Cup tie in Jan­uary Garde was sub­jected to the first signs of mutiny from sup­port­ers and was abused as he boarded the team bus.

His hopes of mas­ter­mind­ing a re­cov­ery rested on the Jan­uary win­dow but the lack of any new sign­ings was a shattering blow and he ad­mit­ted he would re­view his po­si­tion in the sum­mer.

A 2-0 home vic­tory over Nor­wich in Fe­bru­ary hinted at a re­vival but in the fol­low­ing game they were hu­mil­i­ated by Liverpool, los­ing 6-0 at Villa Park, and they have lost ev­ery match since.

Garde has re­cently been linked with a re­turn to Lyon as di­rec­tor of foot­ball in France and could make his re­turn there, but his five months in the West Mid­lands have been a tor­tu­ous ex­pe­ri­ence.

In the frame: Nigel Pear­son is the favourite to re­place Remi Garde, who will be sacked this week

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