Calmness needed at Villa Park


Remi Garde –

Remi Garde’s ill-fated 147 day tenure as Aston Villa manager came to an end on Tuesday. By mutual consent, the Frenchman left the club, taking with him £1 million compensation. That pay-off might seem generous, given that the former Lyon boss did nothing to avert the crisis in B6, but it is the best possible outcome Villa could have hoped for. The board, foolish enough to hand Garde a three-year deal in November, could have had to pay him much more had they sacked him and paid out his contract.

With relegation effectively guaranteed, the decision for the club now is whether to cut costs this summer and look to rebuild from the bottom upwards, or go all out for promotion. With the bookies listing David Moyes and Nigel Pearson among the favourites, it seems like Villa will go down the latter route.

Appointing a high-profile manager might seem like a way of attracting quality players and rekindling confidence among the fanbase. However, that approach is not without its risks. A manager of their pedigree will demand a big budget and the licence to bring in established players. The problem with that is, firstly, the squad needs new men in almost every position and secondly, there is no guarantee that the high-earning underachievers from this season can be moved on. In trying to revamp every position by bringing in a quality, proven player, the club risks misbalancing the wage structure and further adding to an already ominous debt.

The Championship is a competitive league in which only three teams from 24 can get promoted. Since 2010, only three clubs have bounced back instantly and two of Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland are likely to be in a stronger position than Villa come August. The implications of taking a promotion or bust attitude and not getting the rewards could be fatal to the club’s long-term future.

This blog argues that Aston Villa should take a measured approach to life in the second tier. The right man for the job could be Justin Edinburgh. He took Newport County back into the Football League and left them sixth in League Two to take over Gillingham, who he guided from League One danger to promotion contention in eight months. In the lower leagues, he has proven himself to be an excellent manager.

The only argument against Edinburgh is “he hasn’t done it in the Championship before” – nor had Eddie Howe, Slavisa Jokanovic or Alex Neil. The idea that an experienced manager is a sure bet for success and a young one will automatically struggle is ludicrous, and has been made a mockery of in recent Championship seasons. Clubs that are brave enough to appoint a young, up-and-coming manager are often rewarded in the long-run. Edinburgh demands high levels of energy from his team and is a good developer of young players.

With a youth system as criminally underused as Aston Villa’s, that is exactly what the club needs. Next season, it will be important to mix a few experienced players with the kind of youthful exuberance that can lift the fans. If the Villans are to get back into the Premier League, and establish themselves as the top 10 competitors they were in the days of Martin O’Neill, they must build from the bottom upwards. Patience is required at Villa Park – knee-jerk business will only make matters worse.

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