After the disappointment of Wembley, Aston Villa owner Tony Xia was soon flying back to China. It was no doubt a long haul flight full of reflection. Today, the Villa chairman issued a statement, which he stated was delayed as he needed to cool down, before addressing supporters.
Xia and his board’s short-termism in their approach to win promotion – spending big on wages for experience and overpaying to get some of the supposed better Championship talents – perhaps was a warranted approach. It seemed a logical way to go, considering the club needed to get back to the top tier asap.
The problem was though, there was some sloppiness in the execution. First of all, hiring a manager in Roberto Di Matteo, who had never completed a second season as manager with any club. There also seemed to be an attitude of stockpiling of players without much thought to systems and how players would play in them – Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan would be expensive examples of that.
The main feeling Xia will have is one of failure as a business man, as he alludes to in the statement below. He tries to mitigate his own regime’s failings in the statement by passing some of the blame to Randy Lerner, by his reference to the last ten years. The reality is though, he’s made the exact same mistake chasing promotion, as Lerner did initially chasing Champions League football.
You can blame the past or you can get on with dealing with the now and future. Some supporters cite, when defending Xia, the Villa board or Bruce, the notion that ‘A least we haven’t done a Sunderland’. The irony is Sunderland also provided the best example, of not wallowing on what has gone on before. In the 2005/06 season they finished on a then record low 15 points, afterwards new owners followed and they had a change of management after the following season had commenced (from Niall Quinn to Roy Keane), but the Mackems still managed to win the Championship title at the first time of asking.
Xia talks in his statement about change – “I believe that only changes can help the club to progress towards the positive direction” – but at this stage, doesn’t allude to what he actually means. Is it a change of manager? Or more likely, a time for a period of austerity? We obviously know they’ll be a change of team, with five of the XI that started at Wembley out of a Villa contract soon.
Xia, has been learning on the job, and for someone whose main business concerns are urban intelligence and the like, he’ll know that Villa will have to become smarter as a football club and waste less resources.
He’d have certainly have learnt after the play-off final defeat, there are no guarantees and the failures of Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and the like, are not such distant concepts.
The Villa owner will know that those he employs have played the percentages up until now, whether by getting in old pros or playing tactically cautiously on the pitch.
While the below statement is thin on details, it certainly hints that from now, they’ll be a different approach.
Full Tony Xia Statement
I know that all the Villa fans experienced a very frustrating and disappointing Play-Off Final last Saturday. After seeing many Villa supporters on Twitter hoping that I can publish a statement as soon as possible, I feel like it would be best for me to write the following words when I am relatively calm.
I care as much about this club as anyone. Even though I am back in Beijing, I still can’t recover from our game at Wembley. The emotion needs time to heal. However, I know that all our management staff, coaches, players and myself need to get back on our feet and prepare to fight again. Like everyone else, I’m delighted to see that under Steve’s management this season, we demonstrated character and unity. We fought like a team. Indeed, the loss is a pity, but we know how much effort and hard work our coaching staff and players put in this season. I want to thank Steve from the bottom of my heart, particularly for his remarkable level of professional focus despite losing his parents this year. With that, I would like to say thank you to Steve and his coaching staff once again for leading the team forward wholeheartedly throughout the season.
We are all aware that we will face severe FFP challenges next season. I am an Aston Villa fan. But I am also a businessman. Under the current circumstances, I think the club needs to rethink not only the past two years but also the past ten years. Villa needs to be a sustainable football club. People join. People leave. That is the cycle of football. But the football club always remains through it all. This is the ultimate reality that cannot be changed, but I can assure you that everyone behind the scenes is working tirelessly towards achieving our ultimate goal.
We have been heavily investing for the past two seasons. However, the loss on Saturday means that we need to change a lot of things. No one wanted to see the club have to go through this, but I believe that only changes can help the club to progress towards the positive direction and this requires the joint efforts of everyone associated with this great football club. No matter what the changes will be, I sincerely hope that everyone can unite and overcome the challenges together. Our goal has not changed and as long as we believe, regardless of how tough the process will be, I am sure we will succeed in the end.
Thank you very much once again for all your support.
Dr Tony Xia
(Statement from the club’s official website)
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