Nigel Pearson looks set for Aston Villa hot-seat

Nigel Pearson is the front-runner for the Aston Villa job as the club prepare for relegation.

Villa are yet to officially make their move as they compile a shortlist to replace Remi Garde, who left last month after only being appointed in November.

The club’s football board — David Bernstein, Brian Little, and Mervyn King — are tasked with finding the club’s fourth manager in just over a year.

Villa are looking for a boss with experience in the Championship and Pearson won the league in 2014 with Leicester.

He kept them in the Premier League last season, winning seven of their final nine games to survive, but left in June after a breakdown in his relationship with the owners.

Ex-Huddersfield and Charlton boss Chris Powell is reportedly his choice for a No.2, with former assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh close to agreeing new deals at Leicester.

Pearson was keen on the job in October when Tim Sherwood was sacked but was never approached as Villa chose Garde, who won just three of his 23 games.

Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy has not distanced himself from the role and remains a contender while David Moyes is reportedly keen.

Villa will be relegated tomorrow, the first time they have dropped out of the top flight since 1987, if Norwich avoid defeat to Sunderland or if they fail to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford.

They have been bottom since November and Eric Black is currently in caretaker charge with Villa having lost their last eight games.

Meanwhile, Villa have axed Gabriel Agbonlahor from the first team and put him on a fitness drive.

Agbonlahor could have played his last game for Villa after caretaker boss Eric Black hinted his exile may last longer than two weeks.

The club captain has been dropped from the first team and put on a personal fitness plan for a fortnight after talks with Black saw the pair agree he was not up to scratch.

Agbonlahor is Villa’s longest-serving current player, having made his debut in 2006, and is their record Premier League goalscorer but has netted just once in the last year.

He struggled to adapt to former manager Remi Garde’s training methods and, with Villa set to be relegated tomorrow, could be allowed to leave in the summer having been linked with a move away in January.

Black said: “It won’t be totally up to me (if Agbonlahor plays again). It will be in terms of selection but I now need to see an improvement on his fitness.

“He was in when the players were off on Wednesday, he’s doing another individual session tomorrow, he’s with the under-21s on Saturday.

“If I see an improvement, he’s paid by Aston Villa to play football, and if he gets to a level there’s no reason why I wouldn’t (pick him).”

Caretaker boss Eric Black made the call in a meeting with the striker on Monday after deeming the club captain was out of condition.

Villa travel to United tomorrow, with the Red Devils having kept their season alive after advancing to an FA Cup semi-final clash with Everton.

Michael Carrick admits United are desperate for FA Cup glory this season.

“I’m desperate to go further in this competition,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for us now, it’s a one-off game. We’ll go down there and look forward to it but getting to Wembley is not the end. It’s a semi-final so we haven’t achieved anything yet.”

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