It looks like plenty of air miles will be racked up by Aston Villa players and staff next year as it’s just been confirmed that we’ll be competing in the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong around the end of July 2011, presumably on top of some of the youngsters taking part in the Hong Kong Sevens during mid-May as usual.
The mini-tournament takes place every two years and is the only “official” Premier League summer tournament and clearly an opportunity to leverage the massive support the Premiership enjoys in the region.
Villa will be joined in Hong Kong by Chelsea and Blackburn and the eventual champions of 2011 Hong Kong First Division, a 10 team league won the last four seasons by South China. They happen to play at the 40,000 capacity Hong Kong Stadium where the tournament will be hosted and currently sit atop the First Division after 5 rounds. I’ll be astounded if they’re not the 4th team next July.
Other than that, it’s extremely simple: the four teams will be drawn to play one game, the winners play off in a “final”, the losers play off to decide 3rd and 4th places. That’s it.
Tottenham won the last tournament in 2009, with Bolton, Portsmouth and Chelsea wining the preceding three competitions.
Gérard Houllier has said that this will form the heart of next summer’s pre-season plans, which obviously makes sense logistically. This is the first time I can recall us heading east during the warm-up, so it will be an interesting departure and a good experience for a lot of the players.
I wouldn’t expect any other summer plans to materialize any time soon, but updated the pre-season with this information for what it’s worth.