Newcastle United have signalled their intent to retain their HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens title this weekend by bringing a powerful squad that includes five players from last year's triumph.
Captain James Tavernier, an irresistible force in midfield a year ago, returns together with goalkeeper Jak Alnwick, defender Paul Dummett and midfielders Steven Logan and Bradden Inman. For goals, the Magpies will look to striker Sammy Ameobi, who has already played 19 times for the club's first team.
Newcastle boast a 100 per cent record at the Soccer Sevens after winning all six of their matches on their debut last year, culminating in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the Cup final.
"We arrived not expecting too much as we had a very young and inexperienced team," said coach Willie Donachie. "But we surprised everyone and went on to win the competition. It proved to be a fantastic experience for all of us and provided many benefits to our young players."
Tavernier played his first Premier League match this past season, while Dummett made his senior debut. Alnwick featured on the bench in the top flight, and Inman was loaned to Crewe Alexandra and helped them win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final [League One and Two knockout competition] at Wembley.
Newcastle will face a tough battle to keep their Soccer Sevens crown at Hong Kong Football Club this weekend.
Manchester City are making their tournament debut while five-time winners Aston Villa return together with Sunderland, Leicester City and Scottish giants Rangers. Leading the home challenge will be Hong Kong champions South China.
Newcastle's youngsters will also be out to impress football development manager and Toon legend Peter Beardsley, who will be guest starring for local side CLA Discovery Bay in the Masters competition, alongside former England teammates Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton.
Donachie said his team would benefit from pitting their wits against top teams in a competitive environment. "Playing against the best is how you learn and coming up against the likes of Manchester City and Aston Villa will really grow these lads as players," he said.
"More importantly they will grow as people. Seeing Hong Kong, a different culture, spending time at a nice hotel with teammates all helps create unity and togetherness. That's the beauty of football."