Villa in Hong Kong blog: Players on top form at kit launch
25th Jul 2011
Despite being planned well in advance, you never quite know what kind of turn-out you're going to receive.
But I was thrilled to see rows and rows of claret and blue supporters line the streets of Mong Kok to serenade their heroes Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton and Richard Dunne.
Travelling as part of the Villa party to the exciting event was a real thrill and it was amazing to see such hero-worship at close-range.
Just getting off the coach was an exercise in military precision as supporters did everything possible to get near the club's star names.
The reception they received when introduced to the cheering crowd was uplifting and the screams of delight when the lads threw out claret and blue pin-badges was terrific.
The players even took time to sign posters for the masses and that went down a storm.
It's at times like these you appreciate that footballers are like pop stars - adored by millions and millions of people.
The Hong Kong fans and their Villa heroes were certainly singing from the same hymnsheet and the claret and blue brand was enhanced greatly as a result of the engaging event.
It's also at times like these that you appreciate how lucky you are to be working alongside such big names - even if sometimes you do come if for a bit of stick! Just ask Jack Woodward [see below].
Click here to check out the kit launch video as part of our daily news bulletin on AVTV.
Click here to access some fantastic pictures from the event.
Gabby is a confident lad but he appeared to lose that swagger as he left the international kit launch.
Asked what he thought the fans made of meeting him, he joked: "They're probably pulling down all the pictures of me and taking away the cutouts as we speak!"
We're sure they're not Gabby - and judging by the reception the lads received the Villa brand will have been given a huge boost in this part of the world.
In an area of the world big on manners, I am thrilled to say our players were impeccable ambassadors, smiling and immensely courteous through proceedings.
As you can tell from the entry above, Gabby was the main man when it came to humour on the way to the event in Mong Kok.
Villa's speed demon often comes across on the television cameras as a shy character but he proved during the 20 minute journey to the unveiling that's he's a funny lad.
He's seen as the joker in the dressing room - and he certainly had the coach party in stitches with some of his dry one-liners.
On the raucous radar was AVTV host Jack Woodward, who often gets a ribbing from the ace forward.
Seeing JW at the back of the coach, Gabby said: "It's Jack! Is it the end-of-season dinner already!?"
To be fair, Jack was backed up by Darren Bent, who insisted: "Oi, he's the chief at that do!"
It must be said, Jack didn't help his cause on the way by proclaiming: "Oh look, it's Chelsea's hotel" only for the lads to check back and see a burger van called "Chelsea's Place."
Cue loud boos from Gabby and an "oh no, that's awful" from Benty.
Gabby was involved in more banter with Jack during the media briefing with AVTV after the event.
Jack: "It's a pleasure to interview you Gabby." Gabby: "No, no, no Jack, the pleasure's all mine."
To make matters worse, half-way through the piece to camera, Benty joined in the joke by distracting Jack, courtesy of pulling on his ears mid-sentence.
This then prompted a laughing fit from Marc Albrighton.
I think Richard Dunne must have just been looking on in bewilderment!
Ian Taylor was chatting about music during the journey - and for some reason I bought up 1990s classics.
Bobby Brown "My Prerogative", Jinny "Keep Warm", N-Trance "Set You Free" were quoted as some of the stand-out tracks of the decade before someone questioned what the Charles and Eddie hit song from that period was called.
Cue Benty singing: "Would I lie to you baby, would I lie to you?"
I'm not going to tarnish his reputation by saying he's a big fan of the pop double-act but there's no denying he knew the lyrics!
As I said before, these events make you realise how popular famous faces are.
Darren Bent is a favourite wherever he goes because of his goals - but another man who's been making a real name for himself over the past few years is Marc Albrighton - and I am pleased to say he is particularly popular in the Far East.
Villa's wing wonder appears to have collected a Hong Kong female fan club, with a group of young girls screaming every time he appeared on stage at the kit event and even as the bus pulled away from the event.
They even chased after the bus which was ferrying us away from the assembled masses.
It was incredible to think Marc - one of the nicest lads in the squad - has a following so far afield - but the lads certainly laid into him as the bus finally made off from his adoring army.
The guys quickly got changed into their casuals as we sped away but unfortunately for the girls, it was some time after they had given up the chase for their hero!
Later that evening, Villa's star names joined their counterparts from Chelsea, Blackburn and Kitchee at a glitzy gala event.
The Barclays Premier League event saw Alex McLeish chatting to Andres Villas-Boas and Petr Cech having a laugh with Villa new boy Shay Given.
It really got the adrenalin going as look ahead to the Barclays Asia Trophy. The start is just a few hours away!
Stay tuned in the coming days for more blogs and videos.
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