Five dark horse candidates to be the next Aston Villa manager

Chris Hughton

Outside of the favourites like David Moyes, Nigel Pearson, Brendan Rodgers, Sean Dyche and Steve Bruce, who else could the club potentially sound out to replace Remi Garde?

With Remi Garde leaving Aston Villa by mutual consent on Tuesday night after only 147 days in charge, the Premier League’s bottom club find themselves searching for their fourth manager in just over a year.

Nigel Pearson, David Moyes, Sean Dyche, Steve Bruce and Brendan Rodgers have regularly been named as the top five favourites for the job since rumours first emerged a few weeks ago that Garde was unlikely to see out the season, but what if none of them can be convinced to come to the Midlands or the board simply decides to go in a different direction?

With that in mind, as well as the reports that the club want a British manager as they prepare for life in the Championship, here are five potential dark horse candidates who could be considered for the role.

Steve Clarke

Clark is currently out of work after being sacked by Reading in December just two weeks after turning down the Fulham job, but it should not be long before he is back in the dugout somewhere given he has a top half Premier League finish on his CV.

After coaching at Newcastle United, West Ham United, Chelsea and Liverpool, the former Scotland defender’s first job in management saw him guide West Bromwich Albion to their best-ever Premier League finish of eighth in his debut season before he was surprisingly sacked midway through the 2013-14 campaign.

He subsequently took over relegation-threatened Reading a year later and proceeded to steer the Championship club to survival and their first FA Cup semi-final appearance for 88 years, narrowly losing 2-1 to Arsenal after extra-time.

His youthful Royals side were sitting in ninth place at the time of his departure, but despite a run of one win in eight games, his exit almost certainly had more to do with the aforementioned Fulham talks.

Simon Grayson

The former Villa defender has won promotion with all four clubs he has managed – Blackpool, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Preston North End – and has led the latter into the top half of the Championship this season after going up via the play-offs last term.

Holte End hero Brian Little, who is currently advising the new board on their next appointment, previously signed the Yorkshire native while managing Leicester City and Villa, respectively, and nearly became his assistant at Leeds in 2009 but for the travel required.

He obviously already knows the club inside out, and having successfully rebuilt a Preston side that was punching well below its weight in the third tier, he has the track record to suggest he could handle the step up.

Chris Hughton

Hughton has already taken a fallen giant back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking, having led Newcastle to the 2009-10 Championship title.

After a subsequent stint at Birmingham City, when the club reached the play-off semi-finals in his lone season in charge, the former Republic of Ireland international was lured to Norwich City in June 2012 and went on to guide the Canaries to an 11th-place top-flight finish.

His second season at Carrow Road was not so successful, as he was sacked a month before the team’s relegation, but he now has Brighton & Hove Albion sitting second in the Championship after beginning the season with a club record 22-game unbeaten run.

With Villa potentially waiting until the summer to hire Garde’s replacement, he could make for a solid appointment if the Seagulls do not take their place in the Premier League.

Gary Rowett

Despite openly denying it since taking the Birmingham job in October 2014, there is strong evidence to suggest that Rowett grew up a diehard Villa supporter.

That would obviously help him win over a few supporters from the outset, but regardless of his fandom, there are plenty of reasons why the Bromsgrove native would be an intriguing hire.

After beginning his managerial career at Burton Albion in March 2012, he led the Brewers to back-to-back play-off appearances in League Two in his first two full seasons in charge before leaving for St Andrew's with the club in third place in the table.

The cash-strapped Blues were in turmoil at the time, sitting 21st in the Championship following a humiliating 8-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, but the former Derby County defender has since orchestrated a remarkable turnaround which sees them currently contending for a play-off spot after securing a 10th-place finish last term.

The last time a Birmingham boss made the move across the city may have been met by widespread disapproval, but unlike Alex McLeish, Rowett has not had the chance to build up a long-running rivalry with Villa – facing them just once in last September's Capital One Cup second-round clash when his side fell to a 1-0 defeat.

Gareth Southgate

Another former Villa defender signed by Little, Southgate arrived from Crystal Palace in 1995 and went on to lift the League Cup and captain the club under the fan favourite manager.

Having been England Under-21 boss since 2013, he has worked closely with new Villa officials David Bernstein and Adrian Bevington during their time at the FA, while his experience of working with some of the country’s best and brightest talents would stand him in good stead for coaching the likes of Jack Grealish and Andre Green.

He previously had a fairly mixed three-year reign at Middlesbrough, guiding the club to 12th and 13th place finishes in his first two seasons in charge before they were relegated in 2009, but he was arguably unfortunate to be sacked just three months into his first campaign in the Championship with the club sitting one point off top spot.

However, having originally left Villa for Boro as a player in fairly unceremonious fashion, he may have some work on his hands to win over the claret and blue faithful.

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