Hong Kong diary day two: Be A Pro star set for dream Villa clash
23rd May 2014
It was slippery under foot for the claret and blues at this morning's training session on the Hong Kong Football Club astroturf.
Luckily, Ben Petty's squad finished around half an hour before a storm of epic proportions.
Here are a few of pictures from today's session.
Villa have offered countless number of young players a gateway into the English game - but tomorrow they will come up against a local lad to whom they also gave a big helping hand.
Our Nike Be A Pro competition, which coincided with the 2011 Soccer 7s, saw Bryan Jones, Ben Petty, Sean Verity and club ambassador Ian Taylor run the rule over 50 young hopefuls from Hong Kong.
They selected two winners, Lau Hok Ming and Li Ngai Hoi, who then spent a week with Villa's academy at Bodymoor Heath.
Both lads have since been snapped up by professional clubs in the Far East - and tomorrow morning Lau will line up for our first opponents of the day Hong Kong Football Association U21s.
We caught up with Lau on the eve of the tournament and he was quick to express his gratitude to retiring academy director Jones.
"I am looking forward to playing against Aston Villa," said Lau, who plays his regular club football for Hong Kong First Division side Yokohama.
"I want to have a good performance for everyone and especially for Bryan Jones because he will retire in August.
"I want to show him that I can play very well and I hope he will be glad to see that."
It has been great to spend some time with newly-appointed Hong Kong Lions club chairman Kidd So this week.
Kidd has done a sterling job of flying the claret and blue flag out here since taking up the role earlier this year.
We've seen his passion for the club shine through on several occasions in the past.
He appeared on AVTV during the first team's visit to Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy in 2011, while he also contributed a fan blog to avfc.co.uk last season.
Check out our mini-feature on Kidd and another Far Eastern Villa fan, Jason Quek from Singapore.
Academy chief Bryan Jones - who has been bringing Villa sides to Hong Kong for the more than a decade - will bid a fond farewell to the Soccer 7s this weekend.
BJ was involved in the club's triumphs here in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
He retires from his role in August, so this trip has provided a perfect opportunity to talk to him in depth about his long and successful reign.
In the fascinating interview, he tells the stories behind of some of the academy's most successful graduates and describes the buzz of seeing homegrown stars run out at Villa Park after breaking into the senior setup.
In particular, his insights into the careers of Gary Cahill and Jonathan Hogg - who both represented the claret and blues in the top flight - make compelling listening.
Look out for the Bryan Jones feature on AVTV in the coming weeks.
For now, here is a free video of the academy manager previewing this weekend's event.
The serious business gets underway tomorrow - but you'll have to be up early to follow our coverage in the UK.
Villa begin their Group D campaign of the Soccer 7s against Hong Kong Football Association U21s at the very precise time of 9.34am [2.34am UK time].
Next up we face Yau Yee League Select at 11.16am [4.16am] before the big game against holders Leicester at 1.32pm [6.32am].
For those of you who fancy setting the alarm clock to follow our coverage, the Villa Live match console will be in operation throughout the morning, while there will be regular text and picture updates through our official Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Here's to a top tournament. UTV!
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