The BBC article begins with a quote: "He respects tradition, he's not a showboater, he's a fan and player-friendly and has a lot of money - I don't know what more you could ask for in an owner." It's everything we want, it's everything we need. It's precisely the type of owner that could propel Aston Villa back into the Premier League and relevance.
It's also everything that we've been dying to get away from for the past five years. The quote comes from a ten-year-old article published after Randy Lerner had just purchased the club. The BBC article goes on to sing Lerner's praises while noting that it was a bit odd to see the notoriously media-shy owner getting into English football (what a warning sign!).
I bring this up not to dampen our mood, but to begin by pointing out that interviews with a new owner at this stage are largely meaningless pablum. Randy Lerner had the absolute best intentions for Aston Villa and he basically failed as miserably as he could. And now, with Tony Xia set to take over Aston Villa, we're hearing many of the same good intentions.
I know I should be wary. I know I should be cautious. I know that I shouldn't buy in too much at this stage, because it's easy to say the right things and not do them. Or not do them well. Or do them well and have the wrong outcome.
But dammit, I'm buying in. Tony Xia is a breath of fresh air after five years of absolute stagnation. His long interview with the Guardian today should have every single Aston Villa fan absolutely thrilled. If you haven't read it yet, click here, read it, and come back. I'll wait.
Pretty great, right? "My ambition is to bring Villa to the top six in less than five years and I hope it can be [one of] the top three in the world – even the best well known in the world – in less than 10 years." Good god. To be in the top six in 5 years (let's ignore the "less than" for now) he's got one year for promotion and then four to take a moribund team and make them ready to compete for Europe.
And then top three in the world? That's laughable. It's not going to happen, at least not within a decade. Not with the constraints of financial fair play regulations. But he's earnest about it. He actually seems to want this, and even if he only acheives half of his goal, it will still be a massive improvement over what we've seen.
How will he effect this turnaround? "I think we will add six to seven players in maybe six or seven positions [before the start of the season] and we are going to bring some young talented people from the academy to play in the first squad … I think a lot of them can play very well in the Championship."
Hey, that's what ALL OF US have been saying. All season. Use the youth. Augment their abilities with new talent. And do so to the tune of £20-50 million. That may not seem like the amount needed to build a club, but for a Championship side, that's basically a full team. If Xia actually plans to infuse that much cash and if Villa can obtain promotion in one year, we won't really see a huge impact from missing out on one year of the Premier League TV money.
But there's one part at the end of it all that made me absolutely fall for Xia. "At least from my experience, if you keep working hard you still have a chance … I think attitude is more important than talent. So that is one of the basic principles for me to give advice to the [new] coach to choose players to revamp the team." The emphasis at the end is mine. The Guardian article makes it clear that Xia is going to have no tolerance for players who don't want to perform at the highest level, and he'll be happy to cast them aside. You hear that Joleon Lescott? Your days are numbered at Villa Park.
Finally, he seems to want to be one of us in a way that Lerner never was. Seeing Randy Lerner at Villa Park was akin to spotting Sasquatch saddling up for a ride on the Loch Ness Monster. Xia, on the other hand, will be back in Birmingham in the next two weeks and is planning on buying a house here for him, his wife, and their 18-month-old daughter. He will be here. He will be watching. And he will be personally invested, with himself in addition to his money.
It's dangerous to fall for someone like this, but after five years of being distrustful I'm ready to do it. Tony Xia, lead us back to the Premier League. Make us a top-six side. Hell, make us top-three in the world. We love Villa despite all they've put us through, so we know from crazy. I think you're crazy, but it's the kind I can get behind.