Hong Kong diary day one: Big Ron on tour and Jack in demand
22nd May 2014
Rongtian He, popularly known as Ho, joined the club as social media executive in November.
Ho hails from Guangzhou in mainland China - just a couple of hours away from Hong Kong by train.
He also spent three years studying in the land where East meets West, so it is familiar territory for him.
Ho's dream came true when he started work at his beloved Villa and now he will get the chance to report on our fortunes in a tournament that is a little closer to home.
Here we are at Villa Park prior to departure.
The first obstacle Villa's young guns had to overcome after touching down in the Far East was the sweltering 32-degree heat.
It was an early 8am start for the claret and blues on day one as they trained ahead of this weekend's tournament.
As you can see, despite the testing climate Jack Grealish and Janoi Donacien were still in good enough spirits to play up to the camera.
Ronglish was the order of the day at this year's pre-tournament dinner, which officially declared the start of the Hong Kong International Soccer 7s.
That's because former Villa boss Ron Atkinson was the guest speaker for the big event.
And Big Ron - who earned popularity with football public thanks to his colourful array of similes - didn't disappoint.
He instantly brought the house down by asking: "How many of you thought you'd come to see Mr Bean?" in reference to near-namesake comedian Rowan Atkinson.
Then it was time for some classic Big Ron anecdotes, including an amusing story from his time as manager of Kettering when he swapped a reserve team player for a lawnmower.
And, moving on to the subject of the Soccer 7s, the legendary manager curried favour with his former club by declaring: "I have a vested interest - I hope Aston Villa win it easily."
It was great to catch up with a couple of our Far Eastern fans at the tournament dinner.
Newly-appointed Hong Kong Lions club chairman Kidd So and Singapore-based supporter Jason Quek were on hand to greet us on our arrival.
Jason, who has a remarkable collection of football memorabilia, was able to add to his vast autograph collection by bagging signatures from stars such as ex-Villa full-back Alan Wright, who is representing Citibank Allstars in the Masters competition.
He shared his claret and blue story with us in a short AVTV interview too [look out for it in the coming days].
And Jason was also able to get a replica shirt signed by one of his unlikely Villa favourites - former left-sided star Alan Thompson, who is turning out for Wallsend Boys Club this weekend.
Below you can see Jason showing off a Jack Grealish replica jersey from last year's Soccer 7s.
Speaking of Jack Grealish, he was a man in demand as soon as we touched down in the Far East.
Within minutes of making it through Arrivals at the airport, Grealish was asked to conduct a short interview which made it into Thursday's South China Morning Post.
The whole Villa squad were also happy to pose for photo opportunities.
"I'm not sure I should admit this but I'm a Birmingham City supporter," said the British Airways air hostess during our flight out here.
Quick off the mark as always, Bryan Jones replied: "Is that why my drink wasn't ice cold?!"
Once again the academy manager's razor-sharp sense of humour came to the fore as we successfully avoided an unneccessary bit of turbulence!
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