Chinese Takeover News Has Question Marks for Villa Supporters

Lets hope Villa are more than a metaphorical big game head in the Chinese football expansion trophy cabinet.

Anybody with an eye for detail amongst the social media hot air surrounding the sale of Aston Villa will have seen that a proper announcement on a new owner was likely to finally happen towards the backend of this week. On top of the various tip offs that an announcement was pending, Adrian Bevington, the advisor to Villa’s swiftly extinct ‘Football Board’ leaving Villa was a further sign, while the news of Villa chairman Steve Hollis being in China finally being ‘officially’ in the public domain (but wasn’t he there last week?), suggests it’s all system’s go with the Chinese media seemingly already confident it’s a done deal.

While Villa supporters will no doubt rejoice that it brings about the end of the shambolic reign of Randy Lerner, there should be an air of caution about.

Right Hands?

For starters, I for one, don’t buy into the continuous mantra that Randy Lerner’s priority is to make sure the club is passed on into the ‘right hands’.  That’s just PR spin. Lerner doesn’t want to dilly dally, he wants to dilly dong.

For starters, what makes you think he knows what ‘good hands’ are? He thought Alex McLeish was a good idea and considered that Paul Faulkner and Tom Fox were qualified and experienced enough to run the club. Lets be honest, his credentials for knowing what is good for Villa are very debatable.

It’s been suggested in the press (and backed up by speaking to Hollis in person) that there were three or four offers in for the club. While due diligence and ‘fit and proper’ tests are a drag and take weeks to complete, it does seem there wasn’t any outstanding bid by a major player wanting to really transform the club (ala Chelsea and Manchester City).

A few fans seem to have clung onto the year-long rumour that Larry Ellison was interested; if he was, don’t you think he would have bagged the deal already? The sale would have been a lot more straight-forward. Instead, there seems to have been a bit of haggling from prospective buyers with Lerner. Considering there’s now reports out there that the price is as low as £60million (although this isn’t taking into account any deals of paying off existing debt – reported to be around additional £25m).


The Chinese buyer, the Recon Group is one of the China’s largest businesses in the health and food sectors amongst other activities all over the world. Dr. Tony Xia (sounds like a alter ego for a superhero) will become Chairman of Aston Villa. There’s no doubt that Dr Tony Xia and the group are ‘sponsored’ by the Chinese government as per the reasons MOMS detailed in this earlier article; with the roots of the interest being in developing their own football legacy and getting a foothold in the international game.

Bright Future II?

For an Villa supporter who thinks Villa’s problems are done and dusted as soon as a new owner comes in, be warned of false optimism. At the moment, it’s very much a case of sleep with one eye open, even if the takeover is positive news.

I’m not being a kill joy, but just realistic.

There is a more urgent need for Digestive biscuits than Cantuccini in the Championship

Until the finer details of the owner’s plans and intentions come through, it’s unclear as to the real scope of the operation. What are their practical intentions beyond the the Chinese long-game and the immediate ‘five-year plan for European football’, that they will no doubt be trotted out again.

Lets hope Villa are more than a metaphorical big game head in the Chinese football expansion trophy cabinet.

Digestive vs Cantuccini

MOMS has heard whispers of big plans from prospective owners, but pragmatic evidence is thin on the ground. The first alarm bell of the expected buyers is the suggestion that Roberto Di Matteo is their favoured man to lead Villa’s revival.

Having a Champions League win on his CV as a manager may impress the Chinese, but you have to remember that win was largely in the context of him doing a ‘Tony Barton’ and taking over an immense Chelsea team. Despite winning the Champions League and FA Cup, he still wasn’t deemed good enough to continue beyond a caretaker role (see Tim Sherwood at Spurs).

Di Matteo does have lower league experience for a couple of seasons though. First of all taking a promoted MK Dons side to the League One play-offs, where they were ultimately beaten. Considering he inherited a winning team (the MK Dons had won the FA League Trophy as well as their promotion under Paul Ince), it is not unusual for a promoted team from Division Two to have a decent chance of back-to-back promotions.

At WBA, he got a relegated WBA team promoted back to the Premier League. Again, it could be argued he took over ex-Premier League team that was tipped to be in the runners for promotion that season.

There is no doubt Di Matteo would have chosen both the MK Dons and WBA jobs as they were easier wickets for learning his trade, which is a contrast to what he would inherit at Aston Villa.

Di Matteo hasn’t completed two full seasons as a manager at any club. Could he really be relied on to roll his sleeves up and get his hands deep into the soil and tackle the roots of Villa’s rebuilding?  That said, Di Matteo offers more hope than some of the other names suggested in the press.


If you had to back one man to do the job, love him or hate him, Nigel Pearson would be the man most likely. Seemingly he was the ‘English manager’ already green-lit by Villa, judging from what both David Bernstein and Brian Little said on record. The ex-Leicester boss would certainly be the most pragmatic choice for the ground zero rebuild ahead of the team.

After half-time exec box biscuits were reported victims of Villa cutbacks last season, if they were to return to Villa, in a managerial sense, there is a more urgent need for Digestive biscuits than Cantuccini in the Championship.

As for the future beholden in any half-time Chinese fortune cookies, we’ll have to await the finer details of the takeover first. Still, surely we’ll be moving in the right direction now.


Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid



  1. The first thing Xia should do (after booting Lescott out) is stop the redundancies of the staff

  2. Decent article. We’d be mad not to be sceptical until we see evidence of how this is going to work. The history of wealthy foreign takeovers at Championship level is overwhelmingly disastrous: Forest, Blackburn, Leeds, Small Heath, QPR, Cardiff, Fulham…..

    I don’t believe MOMS theory about Chinese government backing, but money is not really the issue – judgement is. It doesn’t take a fortune to get a club of our size, with parachute payments, out of the Championship. It takes appointing the right people to make the right decisions, and leaving them to it without panicking after one or two bad results, or changing the manager every five minutes, or having new club colours, or a new name, or siphoning off the pension fund. It might even take two or three seasons for a good plan to lead to promotion and Premier League stability. Leicester and Southampton have done it, most have failed.

    So… we’ll see. Media seem to like Wyness but Everton fans less so. Comolli and DiMatteo wouldn’t be my choice but I’ll give them a chance. Most worrying to me at the minute is Chris Samuelson, previously involved with Reading and Everton and rumoured to be in the background. Looking him up on Google (or Baidu) is not reassuring.

    For now, the only thing we can be sure of is this: the official press release claim that Tony Xia “became a Villa fan many years ago” is 24-carat bollocks. Time will tell if this new crowd understand the game and the business of football, but they’re fluent in patronising PR BS to the fans.


    • Samuelson – I’m guessing is part of brokering this and firming it up the sale ‘through Europe'(aka Switzerland) for – broadly speaking – tax/accounting/due diligence reasons.

      Chinese gov – Recon group works directly with five Chinese governmental departments. Whether they’re just cheerleaders, it will be part of the bigger picture of what the president wants to do in terms of football. There’s some extraordinary things happening from grass roots upwards. They are not messing about.

      We can certainly build a nucleus of a team in the Championship to then fine tune and add some sparkle to in the PL.

      If the owners can sell Aston Villa to the Chinese population – in the short term, they have have to convince them that the Championship is more important than the Premier League! – then the knock-on effects of merchandise, sponsorship etc could be huge and help in terms of FFP, ensuring Villa can spend on players. Also, links with Chinese Super League club may help with ‘creative accounting’ around the FFP situation. Lots of possibilities. The devil is in the detail though. UTV

      • The UAE needs Western credibility and money in the 21st century to reduce dependence on oil. Hence, the relentless charm offensive of their business and tourism, of which the City purchase is a part. Plus, it is run by royal playboys who like the glamour of the Premier League and swanning around Europe.

        None of this is true of China. They don’t rely on the West for trade. Yes, they have a plan for football world domination but it is inward looking and nationalistic. Xi wants the best players in China and ultimately China to be an international force. He’s not pushed about foreign direct investment or bringing his wife to the Champs Elysees.

        Maybe they still want a European club as part of that, a strategic foothold for scouting and player exchange, but then why buy a club in the Championship? Abu Dhabi bought City when they were already an established PL team, making it easy to get to the top table. Yes, Villa’s a potential bargain for someone but Chinese Super League clubs spent more on Alex Texeria and Jackson Martinez in January than it cost to buy us.

        If this was really part of a long-term global scheme then it’d make a lot more sense to eliminate the risk and pay an extra £50million for Everton or Southampton or Villa a year ago, or to give England a miss altogether and buy in a cheaper, less top-heavy, more technical league. Buying an underperforming English club at a low price suggests a speculator who spies a high risk, high reward opportunity.

        Still, it’s not a great choice either way: a gambler with no long-term interest in the club, or a man who regularly earns comparisons with Chairman Mao. God knows what the Witton Lane Stand will be called by the time they are finished.

  3. Who ever the manager is he needs substantial funds with decent wage structure to attract good players to get us up abs stabilised back in the premier league

    • The key will not be to throw money at players. We spend good money on a bunch of French league inputs, each of them probably cost twice what they were worth. It’s getting the right players to build a real TEAM (ala Leicester). The real key in the short-term will be getting the manager to do that. Is Di Matteo the man to build a team from scratch? The jury is out.

  4. 90M quid is a steal. Chinese Stewards will be cheap too. But they will want a level of success at least. Question will remain at what cost. Pearson I think would be done now if the Chinese wanted him. Di Matteo has experience which ever way the next season ends up. And at least Lerner is gone, Ding Dong.

  5. to be honest with learner we are dead in the water

    so with new owners we can at least be optimistic

    but i just want the club to be run well with kids bought through

    and players with character bought to the club

    obviously we need promotion but everything at the cub must be reviewed and improved

    planning for promotion and survival in the prem must start now

    • The Championship offers a chance to treat the roots of the club, because once we are up, the aim will not be simple survival. UTV

  6. Time to start being optimistic. Guess what Mourinho doesn’t want the job and Richard Branson isn’t going to buy us. Let’s not p*ss the guy off the day he buys the club.

    • This might be better than Branson. But there has to be some practical decisions made, because we can’t mess around any more. I don’t subscribe to a world based on hype, hype, hype. If the right people are put in place (we thought we had them two months ago!), then we should be able to do great things.

    • I am sick of being cautiously optimistic or cynical. Football is supposed to be a game of dreams and right now I am raising a glass to the end of randy lerner

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