Aston Villa CEO Tom Fox has given an interview to The Guardian about the future of the club and the big takeaway is that you probably shouldn't believe any takeover rumours you hear right now. He also touches on Christian Benteke's contract, Tim Sherwood's hiring, and whether or not Randy Lerner is still interested in the club. But let's start with the takeover.
In January, the Daily Mail floated a rumour that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen might be interested in buying Aston Villa. We were dubious from the start, and when Allen said that he'd never even been vaguely interested in such a deal that dubiousness was proven well-founded. At the time, I wrote the following:
"My real question in all of this is how did the Mail ever get the rumour to begin with. Itseriously makes me wonder if they literally just made something up."
It seems that Fox is thinking along the same lines. After numerous questions about the takeover, he replied:
"Look, there may be people out there who in their own mind think they want to buy Aston Villa. It’s nothing that we know about it. People are trying to fill the void of information with something. And I’m not suggesting you are irresponsible for asking these questions, but a lot of what is being said out there is just borderline irresponsible."
I'm not sure I've ever felt more vindicated. Fox went on:
"I look at some of the things that are being written about the ownership and I just laugh. ‘Rich person interested in buying Villa.’ Of course there is. Why is that news?"
Get 'em, Tom. Regardless of what else he does, Tom Fox has made a fan out of me simply for calling out the press for what is, frankly, often lazy reporting. And it's a real shame. There are journalists out there, like Mat Kendrick who does exceptional work for the Birmingham Mail, that see their reputations brought down a notch by association with the often-anonymous reports in major British publications. Reports that are, seemingly, mere fabrications.
Elsewhere in the interview, Fox calls out the specious logic needed to say that Randy Lerner is disinterested in Aston Villa simply because he is not here all the time. "The fact is he’s got things happening in his personal life that mean he isn’t here as often... He knows everything that’s happening at this football club, he’s unbelievably passionate about it."
Fox could, of course, be lying. But where is the motivation for that? The asking price for the club is pretty well known, and being a begrudging seller won't get Lerner more money, so there is simply no reason for what Fox says to be wrong.
He also makes the great point that, thanks to Financial Fair Play regulations, a new owner won't be able to deviate drastically from Lerner's current plans anyways. So what, exactly, do fans really want to see change? Certainly it would be nice, symbolically, to have an owner at Villa Park every weekend, empathizing with the fans and sharing in our collective joy or agony. But that doesn't really change what happens on the pitch. We've already seen the mood around the club do a complete 180 under Tim Sherwood. Based on the evidence we have, the sour mood at the club had nothing to do with Lerner and everything with Paul Lambert.
The whole interview is an incredible read. He talks, too, about his hiring of Tim Sherwood and the possibility of keeping Christian Benteke around after this season. Go and give the whole thing a read, and I imagine you come out of it liking Tom Fox a lot. It's encouraging to feel like we've actually got someone at the head of this club who knows what he's doing. Let's hope that impression isn't wrong.