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Tony Xia’s public Twitter conundrum

Xia’s excessively public and loud Twitter presence puts him in an unusual predicament as Villa fans begin to call for Steve Bruce’s head.

Aston Villa v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Tony Xia’s Twitter account is a polarizing issue among Villa fans. His transfer season math equations are harmless and provocative, but other aspects of his account have the potential to become a real hindrance to his leadership of Aston Villa. The first test of Xia’s Twitter loyalty comes as Villa fans begin to voice widespread disapproval for Steve Bruce. Bruce’s attitude after goalless draws on Saturday and Tuesday was defeatist and somber, but Villa were unquestionable the more deserving team against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night and were fantastically unlucky not to be victorious.

However, while Xia should be at least considering dismissing Bruce at this point in time, he has put himself in a disadvantageous position that most owners avoid. Whereas most owners in modern day football operate behind the scenes, Xia’s desire to be a cult-hero and to be the figurehead of an Aston Villa revolution has left him with no ability to operate in the dark without breaking all the precedents he has already set for himself. Many owners issue the fatal “vote of confidence” for managers just before making decisions on their future, but Xia has already sent out many declarations that firing Bruce anytime soon would be a contradiction of.

Some examples of Xia’s messages of trust and patience are illustrated below - the first comes from the end of last season, and the other from the beginning of this term.

Firing Steve Bruce any time before the calendar year ends would raise serious questions about these messages. Xia’s Villa revolution is supposed to be built on transparency and effective leadership - but what would firing Bruce only a few weeks into the season after preaching “stability” and “sticking together” say about that transparency and effectiveness? Other owners may be able to confer these messages of confidence to their managers privately and later contradict them with no consequences beyond unconfirmed rumors, but Xia has gotten himself into a much more difficult situation: If Bruce’s poor run of form continues and he fails to fire him, he will be labeled either a coward or a hesitant decision maker. If he pulls the trigger on ending Bruce’s time at Villa, he will be called a hypocrite for reneging on previous promises.

Some of Xia’s other Tweets could be used as justification in the event of a Bruce dismissal, most notably the two featured below. Xia’s classification of September as a “crucial” month would imply that Bruce will be given to at least until the end of September, at which time Xia would feel justified in his sacking.

Regardless of these hedging-his-bets Tweets, Xia should tone down his Twitter usage regarding the job security of current and future managers. It does nothing but limit his ability to act freely as an effective leader of the club. Transfer equations and blurbs about club improvements provide the fans with appreciated glimpses into the workings of the club, but other topics have very little upside. Xia is still figuring out how to be an effective owner, and his experience with Bruce will likely leave him wanting to handle Villa’s next manager in a very different manner.