IT’S THE END FOR GARDE
Manager on the brink as club begins rebuilding Leicester saviour the favourite to take over
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