Premier League pacesetters Leicester among five English sides confirmed for Hong Kong Soccer Sevens
Aston Villa, Newcastle, West Ham and Stoke will take part in popular youth-team competition
The Hong Kong Soccer Sevens could welcome the next Premier League champions, after unlikely pacesetters Leicester City confirmed they would be sending a team to the popular event.
Five-time sevens champions Aston Villa, former winners Newcastle United, last year’s runners-up West Ham United and Stoke City complete a strong contingent from the English Premier League for the event at Hong Kong Football Club on May 20-22.
Villa have been a regular feature at the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which features up-and-coming stars from the clubs’ youth ranks, but have not won since 2010.
“We are delighted to continue our long association with the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament. It remains an integral part of our football development process,” said Aston Villa academy manager Sean Kimberley.
“Jack Grealish and Marc Albrighton are two academy graduates amongst many who have benefited from participating in the Sevens in recent times, and we are look forward to playing our part once again in this high quality event.”
Aston Villa won in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010 before winning the Shield in 2014 thanks to six goals from tournament top scorer Jack Grealish, who had also led the scoring charts a year earlier at Hong Kong Football Club after netting eight goals.
“Villa are a huge club, a very professionally run club that have been a strong supporter of the Soccer Sevens for many years,” said organising committee chairman Tony Bratsanos.
“They’ve won the tournament five times so they’ve been very successful here, and they’ve also brought with them a number of future stars. Gabby Agbonlahor, Craig Gardner, Gary Cahill, Ciaran Clark and more recently Jack Grealish have all appeared, so it’s always exciting to have them here.”
Leicester, meanwhile, made their debut in 2012 before winning the title a year later after beating Newcastle in the final.
“Obviously Leicester are the story of the season this year, so it is great to have them coming over again,” added Bratsanos.
Newcastle complete the trio of former English winners having beaten Aston Villa in the final on their debut appearance in 2012 and have reached at least the semi-finals on each occasion since.
“They’re another team with a strong youth set-up and have club legend Peter Beardsley heavily involved in the running of things,” said Bratsanos.
West Ham lost a thrilling final 3-2 in extra-time to Spain’s Atletico Madrid.
“We’re delighted to have been invited back to the Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong. After the fantastic time we enjoyed last year, hopefully we can go one better and win it,” said West Ham academy coach Mark Phillips.
“I have been to tournaments representing West Ham United Football Club all over the world and none of those were as well-run or more enjoyable than the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens.”
Defending champions Atletico, New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix and Japan’s Kashima Antlers have already been confirmed for the 16-team main tournament.