Releasing Villa stalwart would be grave error from Garde

As Aston Villa’s Premier League status grows increasingly fraught, so too does the future of their club captain.

Gabriel Agbonlahor has been given just one minute of top-flight football since Remi Garde took over on the Villans’ touchline. His job security has become so unstable that rumours of his release from the club have surfaced.

Although Garde wants Randy Lerner to fund a squad overhaul that will propel the Midlands side out of danger, many have suggested the Frenchman should actually build a side that can secure an escape from the Championship at the first time of asking next season.

On that basis, the last thing the former Lyon manager should be doing is letting Agbonlahor go.

The key to making an immediate return to the top table for relegated clubs is retaining a core of players that held their own in the Premier League.

Although it can be argued that there aren’t many squad members on Villa’s books that fit that criteria, Agbonlahor has been a proven top-flight striker over the course of his career.

Premier League experience forming the bedrock of an immediate promotion push has been evident in each of the last five clubs to achieve the feat.

Norwich are the most recent example of that. They are back in the Premier League this season having held on to the likes of John Ruddy, Russell Martin and Wes Hoolahan following their 2013/14 relegation.

Before them, Queens Park Rangers boasted one of the Championship’s best-ever squads after their 2012/13 drop, calling upon internationals like Niko Kranjcar and Premier League experts Bobby Zamora and Joey Barton.

West Ham pogoed straight back to the top flight in 2011/12 with Mark Noble and Carlton Cole on board, while Newcastle managed the same feat two seasons prior with Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll up front.

Birmingham complete the list of examples, with their 2008/09 promotion hung around the top-flight nous of Cameron Jerome.

Although it may be argued that Agbonlahor’s pay packet could determine his fate ahead of his ability, Garde would be harming his ability to bring Villa – 14/1 longshots to survive the drop this term – straight back up.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.