Desperate Villa quietly call for changing of the Garde

LONDON: One of the most unlikely and mystifying managerial appointments in English soccer's top-flight history ended meekly on Tuesday when Remi Garde left Aston Villa after nearly five months in charge.

The relegation-doomed Premier League club announced the Frenchman's departure in the middle of a round of international friendlies, an appropriately low-key way for the mild-mannered former Arsenal midfielder's ill-fated tenure to end.

It was not a match made in heaven.

Garde took over the struggling west midlands club in November after Tim Sherwood was sacked at the end of an eight-month reign that at least offered some hope for the club's long-suffering fans.

They avoided relegation last year and reached the FA Cup final under Sherwood's heart-on-the-sleeve style of management.

But the sale of leading striker Christian Benteke to Liverpool and abject failure to improve the squad in the transfer market cost Sherwood dear.

He was sacked in October and the Villa owners opted to appoint Garde, a 49-year-old Frenchman with three years experience of managing Olympique Lyonnais without significant results.

Villa's form since has been damning for Garde.

They have won only two league games out of 20 and a run of six successive defeats convinced the club's owners to act with the team nine points adrift at the foot of the table with seven games left and destined for relegation for the first time in 29 years.

Villa are one of the most successful clubs in England.

Seven-times league champions, most recently in 1981, and seven-times FA Cup winners, they won the European Cup in 1982 and are one of only five English teams to win the continent's most prestigious club competition.

They finished Premier League runners-up to Manchester United in 1993 under manager Ron Atkinson and were regular incumbents in the top 10 until five years ago since when Villa have flirted with relegation and always ended in the bottom quarter of the table.

It will not be easy for Villa to restore their former glories quickly from the notorious hot-bed of the Championship.

Surely, however, they need to pick a manager cut from Atkinson's flamboyant cloth rather than the ultra conservative blazer of Garde if they are to have any hope of doing so.