With Tony Xia’s purchase yet to be ratified by both the Premier League & Football League, still without a manager & The Championship season a matter of weeks away, this is the new uncertain life of a Villa fan.
Having been arguably the most downtrodden fans, humouring ourselves through the teams demise, it’s recently been replaced with mixed emotions for the future.
The delight of seeing Randy Lerner depart was swiftly replaced with broad scepticism, fuelled by uncertainty, misinformation and preconceptions. Indeed, those who remain neutral, are just that, sat on the fence, waiting for concrete news that all is as it should be. Until then, the Champagne is on ice.
We have at the very least got change. Change can of course go one of two ways, but it allows the opportunity for improvement, which under Randy Lerner was no longer fathomable. It was a poisoned, embittered marriage which could never had been reconciled.
Xia has made sweeping statements of intent, identifying as you would expect that promotion is the first target the club needs to achieve. His further comments about positioning Villa amongst the elite of Europe within 10 years provoke a cynicism even amongst our own fans.
However, given the remarkable upturn in fortunes at clubs like Thai owned Leicester City this season, as well as the wider impact of foreign ownership at Manchester City & Chelsea, many would do well to reserve judgement. None of these teams would have been considered within amongst the superpowers of football until outside intervention in recent history; yet the latter unequivocally are.
Certainly, for every Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha there is Carsen Yeung. Yeung sticks out particularly not only for his imprisonment in 2014 for money laundering, but that it has severely impacted our bitter local rivals Birmingham City. As mildly amusing as it was to watch it unfold for them, it is grim to imagine such a scenario so close to home and at our own club.
This scenario, given our clubs recent history in both decisions and appointments forces many, perhaps with good reason, to be certain that something is amiss.
This may well prove to be the case, there isn’t a crystal ball after-all, but there is another outlook.
Whilst I am no admirer of China’s political, social or military policies, the ambition and unheralded drive to improve sets them apart amongst other advanced modern nations. This wealth of knowledge is complimented in many cases by wealth of disposable investment income.
The acquisition of Aston Villa most definitely isn’t the selfless act of saving a fallen giant. Rather, a fine opportunity to further ambitions to raise the profile of Chinese football (and China at large) through the vehicle of one of the founders of the football league. If the price of $95m is accurate, part of which is based on future milestones, then Xia has pulled off a master-stroke.
In the context of his wealth (accepting there are differing reports) and the revenue potential within football, $95m (incorporating our £24m overdraft, thanks Randy), represents good value. Yeung, by comparison, paid £81.5m for Blues in 2009. That’s around $120m by today’s rates.
There is also food for thought, particularly when thinking about vision. Something severely lacking in recent years.
Villa were formed at a time when the Victorians were the pioneers, constructing impressive infrastructure that not only stood the test of time & but also dictated the pace of progress for The Empire and beyond.
The times have certainly moved, but the idealogy lives on. It’s just not with us anymore.
Villa is a club that instead of leading the way, now limps badly behind sides once clinging to it’s coat tails. These days we steam clean the dilapidated North Stand, where our forefathers would have rebuilt a masterpiece worthy of facing The Holte End.
As a nation parallels are easily drawn too. Successive British governments have dallied over constructing 140 miles of high speed rail from London to Birmingham, whilst simultaneously China has laid 12,000 miles of the same track. In 2020, whilst we will likely still debate the same issue, they will have 19,000 miles. You get the point.
I suppose that despite the risk, we are replacing the austere malaise of an absent American for (hopefully) a Chinese businessman with a point to prove. A point that is perhaps not only underpinned by personal wealth and success, but a national identify & expectation to succeed.
Now, whatever you may think of the motivations for this, the fact is that the focus is on the betterment of Aston Villa. It could go wrong, there’s no doubt, but for the first time in many years, the clubs ethos and direction will change.
Does this guarantee us success? Certainly not.
However, it does give us a fighting chance. Yes, it may lead to sleepless nights, uncertainty, even unpredictability; but without taking a calculated leap of faith, we might never know what awaits us.
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