Hong Kong Sevens blog: Keeper conundrum and wordsmith Ronnie
23rd May 2013
The club were left with a goalkeeping conundrum hours before their departure, after Brad Watkins was deemed unfit to travel because of a throat infection.
With Craig Hill, Calum Barrett and Aidan Grant all out of action and Benjamin Siegrist away on international duty for Switzerland, the squad had to head for the Far East without a recognised shot-stopper.
Fortunately, the claret and blues were able to call on the help of tournament hosts Hong Kong Football Club, who have agreed to loan us a keeper for the Soccer Sevens.
"We were due to leave on Thursday at 4pm and I got a call off Brad at midday saying he's woken up that morning with a sore throat," explained head coach Sean Verity.
"He came in to see the doctor before we left and the doc said there was no chance of him travelling.
"So then we panicked! We've got four other keepers to choose from but unfortunately none of them are available.
"Because we've built up a good reputation here, they have agreed to loan us a keeper who plays for the local side."
So, who is Villa's mystery man between the sticks?
Hong Kong Football Club member Jamie Devonshire will don the No.1 jersey when the action gets underway on Saturday morning.
The 26-year-old expat looked in good nick during his first training session with the team this morning.
Stay tuned to avfc.co.uk for an interview with Villa's new Soccer Sevens keeper.
If you're looking for omens, Villa went on to lift the Soccer Sevens trophy last time they called in the help of a 'ringer'.
An injury to Nathan Baker in the build-up to the 2010 tournament left the boys in claret and blue light in numbers.
On that occasion, Jason Langston was drafted in at short notice from the local amateur Yau Yee League to play alongside the likes of Ciaran Clark, Nathan Delfouneso and Marc Albrighton.
The rest is history as Villa went on to capture their fifth Hong Kong Soccer Sevens title.
Let's hope the 2013 edition proves to be as successful with the help of Jamie Devonshire.
Despite being here in the capacity of club journalist, I've been forced to hand over the title of top wordsmith in the Villa camp.
That crown goes to coach Ronnie Sinclair, who dominated a marathon iPad Scrabble competition during our outbound journey to the Far East.
Ronnie won three consecutive games against myself and performance analyst Chris Bradley during the 12-hour flight.
Needless to say I'll know who to lean on for inspiration if prose stops flowing during the trip!
For most of the Villa squad, this morning's training session was their first experience of the Hong Kong Football Club astro-turf.
Jack Grealish, Brad Lewis and Josh Webb - who were part of last year's team that finished as runners-up - are the only players to have featured at the Soccer Sevens in the past.
Nevertheless, there is no question that this youthful squad is battle-hardened.
Janoi Donacien, Liam Bateman, Jordan Lyden and Riccardo Calder all played important roles in the NextGen Series triumph.
The youngest members of the Villa party are Henry Cowans - son of club legend Gordon - and Jerell Sellars, who finished the U18 league campaign with nine goals in his last four games.
The build-up to the Soccer Sevens always means an influx of notable football personalities to Hong Kong.
Former Villa star Mark Walters was among the first people to greet us on our arrival here.
He will be competing for Rangers in the Masters Tournament along with Ibrox legends such as Andy Goram, Michael Mols and Jorg Albertz.
Other well-known faces we encountered on day one were referee Phil Dowd, Premier League old boys Marcus Gayle and Frank Sinclair and QPR first team coach Joe Jordan.
Ex-Man United, Leeds and Milan striker Jordan will be the guest speaker at the traditional Soccer Sevens dinner this evening.
The Masters Tournament once again has a star-studded line-up with Ajax boasting Aron Winter and Jari Litmanen in their ranks, while Spurs legend Teddy Sheringham is back to turn out for Discovery Bay.
Snap up your season tickets for 2013-14.
More from this bloggerAll blogs
Most popular blogs