Liverpool take in the view from Victoria Peak as legends come along for Hong Kong ride
Robbie Fowler, John Barnes & Co sample the Peak Tram as Liverpool ambassadors meet fans and battle jetlag in hectic week of pre-season tour
Liverpool’s legends took in the view from Victoria Peak on Friday morning, and John Barnes in particular was clearly impressed.
“Can you walk up here?” he asked the Post as we queued in the terminal to take a tram back down to Central.
I told him I hike up there from Sai Ying Pun often – perhaps an exaggeration, which Barnes certainly called me out on.
Patting my belly, he said: “It sure looks like it. Are there a couple of McDonald’s on the way up?”
Barnes & Co where in jovial mood as part of their duties as club ambassadors for Liverpool during this week’s Premier League Asia Trophy. The former Liverpool and England winger even stood at the door of the tram asking his mates: “Tickets please”.
The descent back to the Central was almost delayed with Liverpool’s PR staff seemingly unable to locate Robbie Fowler.
The legendary Anfield striker had nipped off to have a look in the toy shop in the Upper Terminus while everyone else was enjoying some refreshments and much-needed industrial fans, with the air-con broken, at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Fowler and Barnes, along with Champions League-winning defender Sami Hyypia, Jason McAteer, Gary McAllister and club chief executive Peter Moore, had earlier enjoyed staring out at Hong Kong’s stunning skyline.
On the brief tram journey back down, the topic of conversation switched between bantering about the first round of The Open to more serious stuff.
— Jason MCATEER (@MCATEER4) July 20, 2017
McAteer was shocked to read the news of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington’s suicide at the age of 41, while Barnes was eager to discuss OJ Simpson’s parole hearing.
Moore’s eyes also lit up when McAteer mentioned that the African Cup of Nations in the 2018-19 season will now be played in June and July, instead of the winter – meaning Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane won’t possibly miss up to six weeks of action with Egypt and Senegal.
“It’s fantastic,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp later said at a press conference in Wan Chai, ahead of their Asia Trophy final against Leicester on Saturday.
“When we signed Mo Salah I was already thinking, ‘Oh my god, we lose both in the winter’, it won’t happen now. That gives us two more players in winter times for the ‘18-19 season. That’s very good.”
Barnes was also miffed about the expansion in the number of teams. “Where are they gonna get 24 teams from Africa?” he deadpanned.
The legends have all been staying with the players and club staff at the luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel in West Kowloon, with various duties to keep them occupied this week.
A planned early-morning dragon boating outing in Stanley was unsurprisingly cancelled on Tuesday morning as rain pounded the city.
But Barnes was on tap to help coach local children as a Premier Skills Asia Showcase in Mong Kok later that afternoon, getting hands-on as Liverpool stars Loris Karius, Dejan Lovren, Marko Grujic and Jon Flanagan stood around watching with arms folded, the club perhaps afraid that even the slightest touch of a ball could result in an injury.
Fowler was famously pictured bleary-eyed in the background of the infamous “Dentist’s Chair” pictures from England’s pre-Euro ’96 trip to Hong Kong, when the players – Paul Gascoigne in particular – were allowed to let their hair down at the old China Jump club.
He was just as bleary-eyed on Monday night when he arrived at Grappa’s Cellar in Jardine House for a Liverpool FC Supporters Club Hong Kong event, but this time it was from the jetlag.
The club had only just touched down from Manchester that morning. “Sorry, it sounds like my b***s haven’t dropped,” Fowler said on the microphone to howls of laughter from the Liverpool fans in attendance, with his throat hoarse and his voice cracking from a lack of sleep.
Ian Rush was alongside Fowler for the fan Q & A in Central, and was chuffed to be presented by one fan with a trinket bearing his name in Chinese. “I’ve done all right, haven’t I?” he said.
The 55-year-old wasn’t struggling as much as Fowler with the jetlag, though. “I’m fine, I’ve been to sleep so I’m not too bad,” he told the Post.
“It’s a big day every day. You’ve got to get so much in, to try to give the supporters what they want. It’s not easy. The first team have got to go and train so it’s our job to try to do the stuff like this tonight.
Rush and Fowler spent an hour signing autographs and taking selfies at the Central bar after 40 minutes of answering questions from fans – probably the last thing most people would want to do after a 13-hour flight.
“They don’t get a chance to see the team often,” said Rush. “What we can do is try to give them autographs and photos. They’re really passionate about it, they’ve waited a long time so it’s nice to give something back.
“The club is here to do sponsorship deals too but it’s for the supporters to see the team play. It’s amazing when you see so many wearing the Liverpool shirts.
“It’s the biggest brand in the world for me. Liverpool Football Club is everywhere you go worldwide. It doesn’t get any smaller, it gets bigger and bigger.”