A word to the wise, Dr Xia: get off Twitter, turn up for an Aston Villa game and heed the advice of Teresa May’s special ‘Svengali’
The struggling Championship club are searching for a new manager after Roberto di Matteo was sacked by the club’s Twitter-happy Chinese owner after only 11 games
Outside Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, where the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative government and their party faithful gathered this week for their annual conference, is the Walk of Stars – the city’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Paving slabs bear bronze stars emblazoned with the names of “Brum’s” famous sons and daughters, among them rock singer Ozzy Osborne, Formula One champion Nigel Mansell, West Brom goal scoring legend Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown, and Aston Villa’s European Cup winning team of 1982.
The latter gong was in need of a good scrub and polish, the plaque dulled and down-trodden as the sorry club it celebrates.
Poor old Villa. The grand 150-year-old multiple-title winning institution is in a sorry mess and its future bleak.
The neglect of Randy Lerner has been replaced by the inexperience and similar absenteeism of new Chinese owner Dr Tony Xia.
Villa, 19th and plummeting fast in the second tier Championship, are seeking their fifth coach in 12 months after sacking of Roberto di Matteo after only 11 games.
The £50 million (HK$482.8 million) spent during the summer transfer window – more than Champions League winners Real Madrid – appears to be money well wasted.
Villa’s only lofty claim to current greatness is that their club now has the most vocal owner on social media as more tweets emit from business tycoon Xia than from an aviary burgled by a group of famished cats.
Just recorded a video2the lads as RDM asked. Hope we'll get the win this Saturday as Chinese saying:哀兵必胜！oppressed army surly will win !#UTV
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) September 29, 2016
Among the sage’s 140 characters of wisdom are: “Just recorded a video2the lads as RDM asked. Hope we’ll get the win this Saturday as Chinese saying:哀oppressed army surly will win !#UTV [sic]”
And: “I think once we win, more wins will follow....[sic]”
The Quzhou-born chief executive officer and owner of Recon Group has been unable to attend matches or visit Villa Park or the Bodymoor Heath training ground because of his “other business commitments”. But recording video messages containing pleas to win is a questionable business strategy.
Fans are unimpressed. “@Dr TonyXia what happens if they win do u have to do a video every week? It’s all starting to sound a bit ludicrous!” posted a Villa fan ahead of last weekend’s clash at Preston North End.
Ludicrous and useless as it turns out, because Villa lost 2-0 and Di Matteo was fired.
I think once we win, more wins will follow.... https://t.co/4qCENdKSzS
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) September 29, 2016
While heartened by his success in China’s business world and his crisp red wedges of yuan, many worry Xia lacks expertise on how the English game works. As his naive video gimmick showed, he needs sound football advisers around him.
Had the good doctor been in Birmingham this week, Xia might have found time to visit the Conservative Party Conference.
As Di Matteo was packing his bags, the British Prime Minister’s joint chief of staff, Nick Timothy, was waxing about his love for his home city and the club he has supported, man and boy, with his dad and granddad.
In a piece headlined “What Aston Villa’s demise can teach us about politics” in his party’s conference newspaper , Timothy – dubbed Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Svengali” – lamented he stills pines for the Holte End choir’s and terrace humour, though he was now in the thick of London political life.
In both football and politics “accountability and good governance are paramount”, he advised.
“The rules that govern markets can be unfair... there is a clash between market forces and important institutions that serve many local communities”, football being one of them, he said.
Though the Premier League is an exciting marketplace, it has since brought a slew of great English football institutions to their knees, including Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, he reminded.
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“My fear is that Villa are the next in line to suffer the same fate,” Timothy said.
He advised that no football club – and no institution in any other walk of life – “has a God-given right to success, or even to its continued existence.”
A difficult decision 4the board. But rather sooner than later we'd make the decision. All need learn¬ repeat mistakes again&again. #UTV
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) October 3, 2016
He said football was by definition “a competitive sport and Villa haven’t been unlucky, we have been very, very bad”.
“But [bad governance] is a salutary reminder of the importance of institutions – and that there is more to life than markets,” he warned.
Wise words which if heeded, might see a plaque celebrating the Chinese custodianship of a fabled Birmingham football club as well Villa’s promotion back to the top.