It wasn’t all that long ago that fans converged on his car at St Andrew’s in an attempt to vent their fury at the situation Blues had found themselves in. Talks of protest abounded online and Ren was very much seen as the man to target.
Yet not much more than a month later Ren is receiving compliments from fans online for posting the odd jokey comment or gif. The mood on social media seems much happier with people genuinely looking forward to seeing what the club can achieve this year.
Of course, this seismic shift in response is partly down to the hyperbolic nature of the internet. The loudest commenters online – and on social media in particular – tend to shift with the wind without really staying in the middle ground. It always feels like it’s feast or famine; glory or gloom.
However, I think it’s important to recognise that Ren really does seem to be trying to improve his standing with fans. In the press conference introducing Aitor Karanka he talked a lot about learning from his errors of the last few years and his actions appear to have backed up his words.
I’ve mentioned in the past on the single occasion that I met with Ren that I was struck by his charismatic nature; that he is clearly intelligent and has a passion for the game.
However, in that meeting while Ren was happy to answer questions where he was on a sure footing, he avoided anything that he didn’t want to talk about.
Similarly, while everything is rosy at St Andrew’s, it’s easy to be Mr Popular online.
His predecessor as the “face” of the board Panos Pavlakis can attest to how quickly online popularity can go sour in the face of poor choices and poor results.
For me, the real test of the “new and improved” Ren Xuandong will be how he reacts to poor results on the pitch or bad news off of it.
I can say from personal experience it’s not easy being in the firing line online when the brown stuff is flying, and I can understand why some hide away from it lest they be splattered.
I’m a believer that a true test of character is someone fronting up online when things have gone wrong to take responsibility. I’ll also be honest in that I’m often sceptical of people saying sorry because words are somewhat hollow; however I also believe that anyone who does take responsibility deserves the right to prove that they are going to put things right.
I really would like to believe that this is the start of a new era for Blues and their ownership. The signs right now are good that lessons have been learned, and there is a feeling of optimism that I’ve not seen for a while.
Let’s hope that this feeling continues for a while – there have been way too many sorrows in comparison to joys in recent years.