There has been plenty of hand-wringing lately about who Aston Villa should pick as their replacement once incumbent manager Rémi Garde finally gets the sack. He's apparently failed to connect with a number of the players, and has been met with such odious backstabbing from upper management that he can't do his job. Even those who like Garde are grudgingly coming around to the idea of him leaving.
But I keep mulling over a counterpoint in my head: what if he doesn't? What if Aston Villa kept him and allowed him to build a team like he did at Lyon?
There are obvious problems with this plan. People like Paddy Riley - who told Garde that players weren't interested in moving for Villa only for the manager to contact them and get a "hey, yeah, sure!" - are still around. And then we've got players like Gabby Agbonlahor, Micah Richards, and Joleon "Butt-Tweets" Lescott who want nothing to do with the manager. Having those people around basically makes Garde's position untenable.
Here's the catch, though: in his short tenure at Aston Villa, chairman Steve Hollis has already shown a keen eye for separating the chaff from the... well, it's still chaff. But the chaff from the less-chaffy-chaff. Gone are Hendrik Almstadt and Tom Fox, cancerous middle-managers who brought nothing but dismay to the club. Gone are the ideas that football decisions can't be made rationally. Those people have been replaced by a footballing board: one filled with a wealth of experience.
And there's no reason to think that the same can't happen with some of the players, too. Lescott looked as if he might be set to join MLS this January, so why not let him go? Gabby Agbonlahor would make a nice addition to a League One side or a non-league pub-team in search of a mascot. Micah Richards can probably be tricked into heading to another club simply by putting a contract somewhere where he doesn't belong on the pitch in our next match.
Getting rid of the players who don't like Garde wouldn't be easy, and we very well might have a new edition of the bomb squad. I sort of hate that idea. But I think I'm willing to compromise on my principles if it means we can have a manager around who actually has a plan for this club. A manager who knows what he wants to do and (this is key) is supported in that mission. Garde certainly has some sway with the French players, and while many of them have struggled this season, we're not so far removed from August that we can ignore the fact that we thought they could be a solid core for years to come.
And yes, some money will be wasted paying off players who aren't going to play because they're stubborn gits. But some money will be wasted, too, if we sack Garde and have to pay an early termination fee yet again. I'm not sure if Garde is the man to lead us to the promised land, but I still think he could be. I like his vision of the club as a rebuilding one, and I like the attitude he brings. He's been put in a terrible position and be compromised at every turn. Remove those stumbling blocks and maybe we can finally see the manager we all thought we hired. Heck, given the proper support, we might see a totally different Garde than we have. It's like getting a new manager without having to hire one!
Or, you know, we could just sack him and try on Nigel Pearson for size. We've certainly never seen a manager with an over-inflated sense of ego go wrong. Just look past Tim Sherwood flapping his jaw and it'll all be fine.