It was quite strange when Aston Villa managed to lure Remi Garde to the Premier League. Garde, who had cut his teeth at the pinnacle of French and European football took a weird sideways slant when he came to Villa, a team in the direst of situations.
Now, it’s even stranger. After bombing out at blown out Aston Villa - Garde is now leading the playing staff over in Canada, for the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer.
Fans of the Impact will no doubt be interested in what they can expect form their new Head Coach - and while they should be pressing fans of Lyon for opinions on the new man in charge, us Villa fans can also present another perspective.
Firstly, despite his clear talent and knowledge of the game - Garde’s stint at Aston Villa was nothing but an abject failure. This was, however, due to circumstances entirely out of his control. A toxic dressing room failed him, and Garde was a dead man walking from week 3 of his reign. Fallouts with Jack Grealish and Gabby Agbonlahor, along with his assistant Eric Black chucking Jores Okore to the wolves down the line (when Black would take over for Garde) - it showed a sign that Remi was clearly uncomfortable with dealing with the drama spilling out of the dressing room at Aston Villa.
The situation above Garde didn’t help - with the corporate influence of Tom Fox and the absence of wantaway owner, Randy Lerner - it’s likely that Garde’s hands were tied in regards to key decisions; and that he had zero to minimal support from club management. When Garde went upwards to resolve toxic club situations, it is likely they were batted away. At least, that’s what the evidence says - with Jores Okore the only rebel to leave the team (it must be said that Okore was treated rather poorly by Eric Black, whereas Agbonlahor and Grealish should have known better). If you’re Impact, there’s nothing we can tell you that is positive about Garde’s ability to deal with a team when the going gets tought; however, Garde was dealt a terrible hand at Aston Villa, that no manager could have fixed. Not David Moyes, not Sam Allardyce, not Pep Guardiola. The team was doomed.
Garde was brought in to project manage the team. Villa were going down when he joined, and he was there for the long term - even after relegation. This makes him a great coach for Montreal, where he will likely have the time and comfort he needs to make an impact, (heh), down the line.
Garde was a popular figure in his initial spell at Villa, with one match bringing a near three minute non-stop chant of his name, as he got Villa back on their feet with a gutsy draw against Manchester City. He’s a good guy, and Montreal fans will appreciate that. Certainly, being French will help his popularity in his new surroundings.
As for his performance? His team selections were always good, his tactics were as good as they could have been - but Villa just didn’t want to show up after November. To remedy Villa’s issues, he hit the transfer market and identified two solid targets, but Aston Villa stepped in and cut his budget, while the FA denied a work permit for his other target. Things could not have went worse for Garde at Villa.
And thus it ended for Remi at Villa. He maybe could have handled his departure a little better, as Villa embarrassingly spun out the season without him, but the writing was on the wall - sadly.
Remi Garde is an excellent hire for a MLS team - seriously good work from Montreal there. However, if he is restricted by the front office, or his dressing room falls apart, he can get very uncomfortable, quickly. Garde is a man with good ideas in football, but needs the right situation. Hopefully, Montreal can provide him with that foundation.