A truly dismal season for Aston Villa has taken another sorry turn on 29 March following the club's announcement that manager Remi Garde has left his position by mutual consent after less than five months in charge. The former Lyon boss, who represented Arsenal during his playing career, was appointed as successor to Tim Sherwood on a three-and-a-half year contract in November 2015 but was unable to reverse their rapid descent to the foot of the Premier League.
Villa's fifth manager in as many years after the truncated reigns of Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and the hapless Sherwood, Garde won just three of his 23 matches in charge across all competitions, drawing seven and losing 13. The 49-year-old's last game at the helm was a 1-0 defeat at Swansea City that all but ended the hosts' flirtation with relegation but left their opponents rooted to the bottom and 12 points adrift of 17th-place Norwich City with just seven fixtures remaining.
Confirming his exit in a statement released via their official website, Villa said: "Manager, Remi Garde, has today left Aston Villa Football Club by mutual consent. The club would like to place on record its sincere thanks to Remi for all his efforts during a difficult period and wish him well in the future."
Just two of Garde's wins came in the league, with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in January followed a month later by a home triumph against Norwich.
His side also beat Wycombe in an FA Cup third-round replay after failing to see off the League Two outfit in an initial tie that saw captain Micah Richards involved in an exchange with a group of seething travelling supporters at Adams Park. A handful of irate fans also hurled obscenities at the team coach during ugly scenes after the full-time whistle.
The writing had appeared to be on the wall for the ex-French international for some time, with reports from The Mail this week suggesting that Villa's plans to sack him were being complicated by their desire to minimise any pay-off. Garde is additionally said to have been irritated at the club's inexplicable failure to sign a single player during the winter transfer window.
Next on the agenda after the international break for the seven-time FA Cup winners, who have spent every season in the Premier League since its inception 24 years ago, is a home clash with Chelsea on Saturday 2 April. They then face Bournemouth, Manchester United, Southampton and Watford before rounding off a wretched campaign against Newcastle United and Arsenal.
First-team coach Eric Black will take temporary charge of affairs having left his role as Rotherham United assistant in January to join a Villa backroom staff also containing the likes of Reginald Ray, Robert Duverne and Tony Parks. David Moyes and Nigel Pearson are among the names already being suggested to take over from Garde, while the likes of Garry Monk, Mark Warburton and Brendan Rodgers are also sure to be mentioned.