Date: 6th June 2018 at 4:09pm
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I’m really not sure whether it is even worth writing about the current Aston Villa situation, there seems too much in the know (itk) and ‘look at me, I’m really important’ stuff flying around as usual. I don’t want to add to that madness.

However, how can we not talk about it?  This is an almighty mess and a major worry.

This itk claptrap always crops up at takeover times.  They seldom know anything in my ever so humble (?) opinion.  Most people who are genuinely helping, if previous takeovers and crisis are anything to go by, aren’t all over social media lauding themselves, they don’t have the need because it isn’t about them, it’s about the club. There is also an awful lot of speculation, as one would expect, amongst fans and much of it is out of concern, some of it though… I wish some would stop and think for a second sometimes ?!

Anyway, before I begin on all this, let’s get one thing straight:

I like to remind myself of that. It’s part of our DNA.

And so onto the stuff flying around…. and I find it hard to write these things without trying to sound like one of the ‘itk’ types. I think those who have read the last 18 odd years of my guff will know I’m not particularly glib with these things and don’t tend to feel the need to chase the page impressions or big up any imagined self-importance. I just love the club and will do anything to help it.

This was me when I first heard the latest developments yesterday, you as well I’m sure!

I can’t even use my punchbags at the moment to get rid of the frustrations, I’m on for operation number 13 on Monday. I bet having kidneys stones removed will be less painful than watching our club messed up by yet another owner or staff, or both.

I got into a spot of bother with my tweet last week after Tony Xia’s ‘statement’ that cleared nothing up.

At least people can see from that, I’m not jumping on any bandwagon, I was already on it. And I wasn’t trying to be negative for no reason.

So………

People don’t forget to pay the tax man. If you do miss a payment, it doesn’t take the HMRC long to remind you. If you ignore that, they are all over you. This isn’t a cheque lost in the post. Keith Wyness didn’t go on holiday and forget to do his internet banking! For one thing, it would be the financial director making payments and the dates of these payments would be etched on .. wherever you etch things.

You don’t just not pay your bills unless you have no money. It’s a cash flow situation and cash flow is the killer of many a good business. Trust me, this isn’t a good business.  You don’t need inside knowledge here, it’s just good old fashioned logic – alongside inside knowledge obviously!

Neil Moxley in The Mirror I think has things very close to where we are at. It echoes my information and yes, I know, that sounds now like an itk thing to say. Whatever! Money being fed to the club monthly IS NOT a healthy situation. You would expect clubs to have a good six months of cash flow in the bank, or with an investor like this, at least finance in an escrow account for the club to draw down on when needed. But no, this monthly financing dried up, hence a cashflow crisis. It really was hit or miss (shit or bust if you don’t mind industrial language) at the play-offs. If the players had turned up and won this game, (1st half criticism I guess, 2nd half they did give it their all, albeit missing the chances to score) I don’t think people would ever have realised how close we came.  However, we didn’t win and it is now dawning on everyone. It would have been a gamble that paid off.  Sadly, they seldom do.

So whose fault is it? Seriously, at the moment, in the middle of this nightmare, I’m not sure I am that bothered.  We have to get through this first.  However, the buck stops with the man at the top. It did with Randy Lerner who got slated for not attending matches but came to more than Xia by the way, just he didn’t tweet… miaow!  He did at least pump cash in, albeit wrongly and did take a massive loss (£240million ish is the figure I seem to recall). And no, I’m not defending how that era finished, I would point to the great way it started if not for the awful end!  Will Tony Xia do the same?  It is now a ticking time bomb, I don’t think we can do a quick player sale or two to cover this, because other clubs will know we are in trouble and so won’t pay £40million for a player they can force our hand on and bid £20million.  No one will look to do us favours, we’d not look to do other clubs favours.  I’m also not convinced the HMRC will be all happy-go-lightly and have a soft touch on this, we are a multi-million pound business with massive assets.  I have nothing to back up this fear over the HMRC but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were happy to make an example of a club to show that football cannot keep going like it is.

There is a lot of mudslinging towards Keith Wyness, the now-suspended CEO.  I understand why, I have had to be careful myself not to be all knee-jerk in reaction to the news, I was apoplectic the other afternoon as a few will attest with the WhatsApp messages they endured.  I don’t think they realised just how Anglo-Saxon my language can be.  But… for me, this is a problem above management level.  Your owner and Chairman have to have a grip on their business.  CEO’s, like managers and other staff, can come and go, they can leave, they can be sacked.  Owners?  It’s a different ball game.  Keith might have been taking advice for damn good reasons (knowing cashflow was running out and the crisis that was coming).  As a CEO if you know you can’t pay your bills, you have a duty of care to get the facts straight on ways to fund the shortfall AND to look into what options there would be if the cash still couldn’t be raised and yes, I do mean administration.  Now the rumours, a lot by Collymore actually on twitter, is that Keith went behind the owners back and tried to get the business sold off cheaply to ‘his chums’.

Think about it.  Ok, so you have a house.  Right?  I want your house.  I get the due diligence done, I find out it is all fine, I get it valued.  I tell you I want to buy it.  You say “it’s not for sale.”  Oh.  That’s it.  End of.  You can’t force someone to sell something they own.

Another implication is that KW was telling other potential investors that although the club might look to be worth x you will actually be able to buy it for y.  Again.  Think about it for a moment.  IF the owner wants to sell, a prospective investor will do due diligence.  Do you think that due diligence will be able to hide the fact we have no cashflow?  No.  So the x value would soon go down to y anyway.  Is it possible that the CEO has gone behind the owners back?  Sure.  I don’t know.  Is it possible the owner is trying to cover his own back and make a scapegoat?  Sure.  I don’t know.  Is it possible Xia isn’t all that?  Yup.  Sure, I don’t… you get the idea. Is it possible they are both as bad as each other?  Yup.  Or is it possible they came in with good intentions, have messed up and now just need to get things sorted, sell and move on?  Of course.

And that’s a major point.  It’s difficult to take sides without all the details, but people are doing so already.  It’s now the fat ****** CEO, it’s the **** **** owner.  (As a total aside, I do know when I did the marathon to raise funds for the Aston Villa Foundation, Keith readily made a donation, Xia totally ignored any requests, as did his right-hand man, to even re-tweet let alone contribute to their own foundation and a fan trying to champion them.  Doesn’t prove anything, just wanted to get that off my chest, or injured metatarsal more to the point!) I can hold my hand up and those who read the Vital Villa Forums will know I have major doubts on Xia.  I’ve only posted the odd thing, I’ve kept my powder dry because I really want to be wrong and really don’t want to be constantly banging on about negatives.  I hope it is clear I try my damndest to be positive about our beloved club, in fact, I try to be positive in life full stop.  But something has never added up for me.  I still hope to be wrong.  Or hope that he now sees the mess we are in, lets our beloved club go and off we go again.

I tried at the time of the dark days of Randy to see if he’d entertain setting up a fan vehicle to invest into the club or to work out a way where we could do something revolutionary in club ownership (and yes I have proof of this!).  I think it is an option he’d have explored if not for the fact Xia appeared.  Whether that is possible with the current owner, with the current finances, well, I have my doubts.  It was also being looked at towards the end of the Ellis reign.  Myself, Howard Hodgson (father of Howard Hodsgon that you’ll now from twitter and the Villa Trust) Navid Nazir et al were looking – even back then it was with heavy hearts not the delightful thought of trying it.  The money to raise then was big, the money to raise now is colossal.  I think, and it isn’t a unique thought, it’s one that a trusted contact told me, if anyone comes in for the club right now, they will be a serious player.

It’s ironic that I’ve said a good few times over the years, what we need for ‘us’ to get ‘our football’ back is for a big club to go bust.  That might wake people up to how ridiculous the industry is being run.  I DID NOT MEAN OUR CLUB!

There will be interested investors (for that, read there are). But investors won’t be interested in paying Xia all the money he’s put into Villa back, not in our current mess, they’ll want the investment to go into the club. So now we get to see how much of a Villa fan Tony Xia really is. He assured us in his statement he was if you remember? “I am an Aston Villa fan. But I am also a businessman.”

And those currently being linked?  My tweet says it all!

All I do know is the ones named so publicly, like the initial report, are seldom the ones with the serious cash or intention, they only get their names released when the deal is done, they don’t want to be beaten to it or linked to failed bids. Time will tell.

And whereas I don’t buy all that Stan is saying, I think he’s being too quick to judge one side of this and being very dramatic to grab some attention, I do agree this is the mess we find ourselves in.  He sees it as not Xia’s fault, I see it as always being the fault of the man who is meant to be the chairman of our great and storied club.

That took hours to write, re-write and agonise over.  It’s too serious a subject not to try to pause for thought.  Do I hear an amen!?

 

46 Replies to “This Isn’t A Knee Jerk Report – It Is An Attempt To Make Sense Of Just What Is Going On At Aston Villa”

  • Put Kevin MacDonald in charge as a caretaker manager now, he knows the U23 squad well and it is these youngsters that Villa will have to turn to in these desperate times, James Bree, Rushian Hepburn-murphy, Callum O’Hare, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Corey Taylor, Mitchell Clark, Easah Suliman, Andre Green, Jacob Bedeau and Keinan Davis must be good enough to at least keep us afloat in the Championship alongside whoever is left of the 1st team squad.

    • really not sure on that TJ… he didn’t really want it before, didn’t like the full on pressure, and now the pressure would be even higher. We’ll need to blood in youth though, could be really interesting I think.

  • Still more of a WTF rather than an Amen at the moment. Far better read than I was mulling over last night.

  • I remember you MR Fear wishing Doug Ellis was dead. He looks like lasting longer than AV FC . He left with the best manager and best team you ever had. Then you want Randy Learner out now you want the China man out. Not a good idea to employ a succession of Former Birmingham Employees and then copy their poor choice of Foreign owners who are only out to turn over a quick buck. What next ? Harry Redknap?

    • Simply not true Alan. I have a letter from Doug Ellis stating that he knew it wasn’t me at the AGM who wished that. Mate, you obviously don’t know me (and that’s fine!) but anyone ANYONE who does knows I’d not wish someone like Doug dead. This is football, I wanted him gone, yes, for good reason. I wished him a long and happy retirement. I would rather he stayed despite me wanting him gone than die.

      I was at the back at the last AGM. I asked all the questions for the Aston Villa Shareholders Association so as not to do the pepper gun thing we often used to, because he’d been so ill. My opening line was I thought the board had let him down allowing him to chair the AGM because he’d been so ill AND THEN said and I respect the way you have manfully fought your illness. He knew I’d also been at deaths door (and more was to come)

      When I finished, someone else, Dan Meredith one of the new marketing guys at the time was giving out the microphone, I had other witnesses as well… asked him, very clumsily, if you die, who does the club get passed on to. I forget the exact words, it was rude and clumsy, it was not me.

      I wrote to Doug after someone else said what you did, re-affirming my good wishes for his health, he wrote back and knew it hadn’t been me and wished me well also, having found out I had nearly died.

      You need to be careful what accusations you fire out Alan, without substance. I repeat, I’d never wish someone to die.

      **************

      I tried my best with Randy to salvage things, I have witnesses and emails to prove that. I didn’t head up any Randy out protests. For one thing, as I had got to know him and others at his side (The General will bare witness) that I knew he was trying to find a new owner, there was no point protesting, he wanted out and got out.

      **************

      I want the best for Villa in the current instance, if Xia can stay and make a success, great. I doubt he can. I’m not, and clearly not if you read the article, beating the drum or protesting.

      Sorry that you got that impression of me, it’s very far from what I am and who I am. Fingers crossed you read this.

      I wish rapists, paedos and murderers dead perhaps, no one else. Peace.

    • Blimey I’d forgotten that nugget of mistruth. The world of Donald Trump makes everything possible – I remember the days when this site was the only one ‘making excuses for Randy’, good God how quickly things change. I do remember when we championed Harry Redknapp though, I saw it on an episode of Twin Peaks, or like Trump, I ‘read’ it somewhere.

    • Ellis is crap but sincere. Lerner is a fraud and complete liar. Xiao has turned out to be skint. Our axis point for success was the sale to Lerner. There we were ripe. Villa can be a global brand. Cause we got the best name in the world.

      • Ali – I’ve missed your inability to separate your personal thoughts from reality. Nice to have you back with us.

  • Mr Collymore appears to be in training to be a financial expert …well he has failed with everything else so its a new venture. Just a washed up footballer who took AVFC for lots of money and has been sacked numerous times ….. he would be better off back in his parking space at the Chase ….go and talk to people who want to listen Stan

  • Clearly the CEO and the owner were not working together well…and that has to be both their faults. Either Xia will finance this by finding a way to get his money out of China or, in my opinion we should plan for the worst. Sell Grealish, sell naming rights to Villa Park and sell as much of the deadwood players that we can. Just survive this summer. Tell Bruce avoiding relegation is the target and lets start to cut the cloth accordingly. Unless an owner in shining armour shows up (unlikely) we may have to accept that our days as a championship team are starting and our days as a premier league team have ended for now……with an optimistic hope that they might return.

    We’ll still be arguably the best supported team in the league as far as attendance figures go and maybe the best U23 squad… that will ultimately have to be the basis of the revival which we hope for.

    • The potential of this darn club Kelvin, as you know mate. Jeez. Can’t someone just come in and be measured, build instead of gamble?

  • Thank you Jon for a considered and reasoned summary of the terrible events. Appreciate your candidness where you were able and your measured views are always very welcome. Cheers mate.

  • Rosary beads are prayed by wife and myself nightly AV included. Jonathan Fear also for your op etc.
    After pilgrimage to St Padre Pio, Lourdes St Bernadette, Fatima, Portugal . I’ll call on our Blessed
    Lady for help. If ever a club needed her its AVFC. Keep the faith,she will save her villa church.

    • Thanks Laudrup, I’ll take all the help I can get, I didn’t think I’d get to 13 for ops.. I thought ten was quite enough!

  • As said before thanks for taking the time to write this, I won’t say it’s put my mind at rest but only the Truth about how the club is being run will do that and knowing it is in safe hands.
    I guess we wait and see if Toni is the person/guardian of the club he claimed to be.if not in the words of someone I’ve forgotten we go again utv

  • For a club that has ‘Prepared’ as a motto, this really is a shambles. Lot of responsibility must lie with those responsible for acquisitions over the years. Hogan, McCormack etc bought and then not used or discarded. Veretout now being touted as a £20 m midfielder after being ousted from Villa. Amavi swapped for Taylor. High profile youngsters overlooked.

    I know I am not a professional football manager, but the short term collapse of form after beating Wolves, and the first half performance at Wembley, responsibility ultimately has to lie with SB.

    Problem is (as stated above) these days we cannot pass the hat round the fans (which pretty much happened when Doug Ellis took over in the 70’s), the sums involved today are so huge we need a globally known investor.

    Agree that we need to allow the youngsters to blossom and stabilise our position.

    Finally, with all this coming down the track, why rebuild the pitch this close season at a cost of (reportedly) £ 135,000. If we can’t pay our bills is this a sensible decision, and will the contractor responsible be paid, if not will we have a pitch to start the new season, assuming we will be starting the season.

    Overall a disappointing situation to compound the Wembley failure. After supporting AVFC for over 50 years, cannot believe we are once again in such a mess.

    • amazing to look at the difference between another club and us, two clubs who were neck and neck (we were above in all time PL and FL wins) … Spurs and Villa. Their story is how to do things. Ours is how not to. Sad isn’t it?

  • Good article Fear and don’t worry, you are always balanced in your views and always have been. I’m amazed at the speed we have unravelled since the playoff final defeat. It’s been 10 years of decline really but this season finally felt like we had hit the bottom and were on our way back up. It was fun to go to games again for the first time in a decade. But that now looks like it was a small oasis in the desert of our decline. The thought of us having to go through more turmoil and struggle really kills me. We seem to be the new Leeds which is hugely worrying. We must come together as a fan base now and make sure we don’t lose our club. I think we should consider a fan owned model with some strict rules in place to ensure the future of the club can never ever be put in doubt again. Whatever happens though we are Aston Villa. We are a mighty club and we will come again.

    • Thanks Nick, appreciated. Really wish we could hit a fan model, trouble is the finance now and the lack of cashflow is really such a big void to fill.

      • The money to bail the club out is huge, granted. But the money to compete in the Championship generally isn’t huge. Surely a way could be found for the debts to be restructured and paid back over a long period with the guarantee of a % of ticket sales. With the club in the hands of the fans we could ensure that the club never spends beyond its means again. No doubt it’s pie in the sky but Barcelona have managed to do it and have stayed pretty competitive!

  • As any sensible business man knows you can’t mess with two things in life – the payroll and the taxman.
    Xia has taken the taxman on and held Keith Wyness responsible. At the time I thought it was a useful ploy to get rid of him without a pay off.
    As a director, Keith Wyness has a duty to himself and the business to protect both if he sees the company trading insolvently. If he doesn’t then he gets a long ban and a potential criminal record. I don’t think anyone would have done anything different facing such a scenario.
    For all his faults Randy Lerner invested his own money heavily and the excellent facilities at the ground are testament to that. We had a couple of decent years on the pitch which people forget about as well so to hold him responsible for this mess is harsh. The price he got for the club reflected the mistakes made.
    I can’t see the Doctor coming back from this – a quick sale is the best solution all round

  • A very good read Jon…it must have taken an eternity! Thanks! What a bloody mess eh mate? Finding it hard to remember a time when things were quite so desperate and that says it all after the traumas of the late 60’s and the final years of Lerner’s reign. As ever, it’s the poor old sods like us that have followed the club through thick and thin that get hurt the most….but we’ll survive and return some day to where we belong. Positive thoughts in times of despair….done that a lot over the past 50 years! UTV!

    • Thanks Mark/Langoe.. appreciated. Total mess. Baffling the money we have spent since Randy and Xia. Should have all been so different.

  • Thanks for the time you took to compile this thought provoking assessment.
    My first memory of Aston Villa was watching the 1957 Cup Final with my dad on our 14” t.v.
    I’ve been Villa ever since and will be V.T.I.D.
    I hope better minds than mine can guide us through this mess and I look forward to the roar of defiance from our fans at the first game of next season.

    • My dad always reminds me Alan, that he was there in 57. I thought a few years ago I’d be able to match him, but once again, when at Wembley, we didn’t turn up when it mattered did we? And agreed on the roar of defiance, it’s our bloody club!

  • Great article thanks for taking the time . Let’s hope it all gets sorted ASAP & we can move on UTV

  • What a bloody mess the old girl is in. My Grandad will be spinning in his urn. Stanley Collymore was banging on about fan ownership last night. How do you make that work with today’s financial environment? So do we wish for another messiah to ride in with their millions? That’s been a major success so far! I phoned my son on the way back home and said if we go under I’m done with football. The Villa is the only thing that keeps me interested. Nice piece Mr Fear.

  • Xia told the fans what they wanted to hear af the start, rather than what they needed to hear.

    A season or two of consolidation, solid team building and blooding the youngsters is what was needed. We’d still have not been far off where we were this past season, but in ruder health.

    As a youngster I recall the sit in at Villa Park, realising then how important the place was. Can’t believe that half s century later we are right back there, and worse.

    Whatever arrows people point Dougs way, he saw us through on an even keel into what initially felt like safe water with Lerner at the helm. Trouble is he wasn’t actually at the helm until it was too late.

  • We may go through administration but we will come out the other side. If we went through admin Xia would lose a lot more than if he controlled a sale process – albeit he would not recover his full investment under that scenario either. A cut price sale makes sense, hopefully with a buyer able to fund the cash flow and pay the FFP fine so we don’t have to sell Jack, Chester or Jimmy!! Not too fussed about most of the others!

  • Lerner should be arrested. How he was able to be allowed to choose the new owner is shocking. How did Xiao pass fit and proper test?????????. This low life has taken a gamble on villa and put us on verge of bankruptcy. Irony is he May have succeeded if we got back to the pl. This to me is fraud we should sue Lerner and xia

    • And this people is an example of what happens when you support Donald Trump – reality goes out the window. How was he allowed to choose the new owner…..PMSL still the Yanks fault. Always.

      • I’m serious Mike, how did x pass the fit and proper test. Is it cause he bought a championship club, and bypassed the pl test. Ps Lerner made us a very ugly investment. True or false?

        • I know I’m just desperately trying to find something to giggle about. F&PPT has always had issues since it was introduced, don’t have to look far across football to wonder how the hell that operates. RL actually left us investable in many ways in reality when you factor everything in.

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