The ownership of Aston Villa Football Club has been passed across four continents in the past 15 years with European tours, top-flight relegations and promotions the price of swapping the keys to Villa Park around the billionaires club all too often.
Regimes past and present have all shared the common goal of restoring Villa’s status as an elite European club, but such goals have simply won’t wash for Villans tired of false promises.
Perhaps matching Barcelona’s global appeal within five years of Dr Tony Xia walking into a then Championship building was delusional, but nobody quite knows what promises would’ve been kept had Villa succeed under the Wembley arch at the first time of trying.
No ownership group has been more mysterious than that of Xia’s, with Keith Wyness and Rongtain. They were both involved in Villa’s most exciting and equally terrifying two years, with Premier League football and administration seemingly hinging on 90 minutes of football in 2018.
A year later and Villa would rectify their failures under Xia’s risky ownership, but the ludicrous statements and assurances that Xia could take Villa into a new light altogether – they were, and are still too fascinating to simply forget.
Very big plans
Villa’s former owner suggested he had “very big plans” for Villa Park that saw its last major development in 2000 when the Trinity Road Stand was expanded to grow the ground’s capacity to 42,785.
In a 2017 interview conducted on the club’s website, Xia explained: “We have very big plans for Villa Park. We finished a plan in China a few weeks ago. We handed it to the management team here. It’s fair to say they were shocked.
“It will be something really different from what we can imagine from other clubs.”
He added: “The main point I want to make is it will have a very modern style but will definitely keep the historic feel, which is very important.
“But in terms of the whole plan? I am confident people will like it. People who have seen the plan love the plan.”
Reports and rumours had pointed to a potential Villa Park capacity increase of up to 60,000 which was fully depended on a top-flight return.
Even preliminary discussions with the Birmingham City Council had been staged, and whilst Villa bosses had stressed the project talks remained at a very early stage, there was a recognition that the ground must eventually be expanded if Xia’s long-term goal of making the club one of the European elite was to be achieved.
Club operations director Ian Dimmock was in awe of Dr Tony’s exciting plans. He told the club’s website: “When I saw the plans for the first time, I was genuinely speechless.
“I thought ‘wow, this is absolutely incredible’. That showed to me the level of commitment our chairman has for Aston Villa.
“It will be awesome. Villa Park, as a modern venue, would be a shining light in terms of stadia within the UK.”
Dimmock was formerly an events manager at Wembley Stadium and organised a host of concerts and big events in the capital.
The likes of Kasabian and Oasis had all performed at Wembley under Dimmock’s reign at the national stadium and he’d hoped to use Xia’s grand plans to facilitate more high profile appearances at a brand spanking Villa Park.
“I believe we have some special things coming to Villa Park,” said Dimmock back in 2018.
“Because we are working on a new pitch at the end of this season, that rules out Villa Park as a concert venue for this year, unfortunately.
“But we are currently talking to promoters about what is possible for next year and I am very keen to get Aston Villa back on that circuit.
“When big bands do the huge stadium tours they often skip out of Birmingham – and certainly Villa Park rarely makes an appearance.
“I am confident you will now start seeing us included, in terms of specifics, we’d pretty much have a concert period over a three-week window for multiple gigs. These would be big acts! Watch this space!”
Villa’s high demand for season tickets in July once more opened the door for more stadium capacity speculation. Seemingly, Xia’s plans haven’t been taken on by Nassef Sawiris, Wes Edens and Christian Purslow, but with the Coronavirus epidemic all but confirming that next season will be at least in part played behind closed doors – the thought of stadium redevelopment seems redundant, as things stand.