By Harry Sykes

Aston Villa must sound out former manager Graham Taylor as they step up their hunt for a new manager.

That is the verdict of former Villa defender and pundit Martin Keown, who played under Taylor when the club were last relegated to the second tier of English football in 1987.

Taylor secured promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt in the 1987-88 campaign, in his first season in charge, and two seasons later led Villa to the runners-up spot in the old First Division.

Keown is convinced that the 71-year-old BBC Radio pundit and former England manager should be part of the think-tank involved in restructuring the managerial set-up following a dismal campaign.

The decision rests in the hands of Villa’s new football board, comprising of David Bernstein, Sir Mervyn King, Brian Little and Adrian Bevington. Chairman Steve Hollis will submit their recommendation to Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, to rubber-stamp the appointment.

“Villa are a team close to my heart and it’s where I grew up in the game,” said Keown in a Q&A session with the Mail on Thursday. “Behind the scenes David Bernstein and Adrian Bevington are good people. It’s about getting key individuals in the right positions – and the appointment of a new manager will be key.

“We were fortunate having Graham Taylor when we were in the second division – he was so good that I thought even if he was running a corner shop it would be the biggest and best on the street.

“I would like for him to have been part of Villa’s think tank at the top so his experience could have been called upon. He’s the last manager who has taken Villa back up from the second tier. I know Brian Little is the right sort of person – a Villa man – but they could do worse than give Taylor a ring.”

Target man: Pearson has been shortlisted by Villa to replace Garde

Target man: Pearson has been shortlisted by Villa to replace Garde

According to reports, Nigel Pearson is the frontrunner to become the new Villa manager and he could be in the dugout next week.

There is a possibility that the new manager could be in the dugout for the home Premier League against Southampton on Saturday of next week.

In other Aston Villa news, a £54,000-a-week player is set to pay the price for a wretched campaign.