May 5, 2015: Peter Beardsley has pinpointed rising star Callum Roberts and 6-foot 4-inch Tom Heardman as key players for Newcastle United at the 16th HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens, which will be held at Hong Kong Football Club from May 29-31.
Newcastle won the Cup on their tournament debut in 2012, lost to Leicester City in the 2013 final and suffered an agonising semi-final exit last year after giving up a two-goal lead against Kitchee.
Managing the team for a third straight year, Beardsley has singled out 18-year-old Roberts, who made his senior debut against Leicester City in the FA Cup in January, and Heardman, 19, as ones to watch a year after debutant Rolando Aarons was the team’s star with five goals.
“Callum Roberts could be an exciting talent this year. He has pace, trickery and can score great goals. He’s got unbelievable ability and has already had a taste of the first team this season,” said Beardsley, who played for England from 1986-96, including at two World Cup finals.
“Big Tom Heardman will probably be our main striker and could be a very important player for us. With all due respect to him, he’s probably not an out-and-out goalscorer, but he does a great job for the team and will bring others into play.
“It’s a great competition and as it gets further on, the crowds get bigger. When the final comes around it’s an amazing experience and we would love to lift the Cup again.”
While Roberts and Heardman will be making their Soccer Sevens debuts, Beardsley has included five players with tournament experience in his 10-man squad, a contrast to last year when only goalkeeper Jak Alnwick had been before.
Striker Alex Gilliead, Turkish midfielder Daniel Barlaser and defensive trio Macaulay Gillesphey, Callum Williams and Adam Laidler all return from last year, when Newcastle looked set to reach the Cup final for a third year in a row before losing 3-2 to Kitchee after extra-time.
“We were brilliant until we lost against Kitchee, having been 2-0 up. The way we went out was disappointing, but we had played really well and the players loved the tournament. They really embraced everything about it, enjoyed the experience and it has done them a lot of good,” Beardsley said.
“This time we have five players from last year, so that tournament experience could help. They know what to expect, they loved what they experienced and will tell the others how good it was. Last year we were naive in a couple of things, but it’s a learning experience and the players are much better off for having gone through it.”
Newcastle are the top seeds in Group A, which also features 2013 winners Leicester City, Hong Kong Premier League club BC Rangers and Singapore Cricket Club.
However, Beardsley is most excited about the addition of reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, who will be the first Spanish side to compete at the Soccer Sevens.
“I think the presence of Atletico Madrid is a huge bonus this year. It’s incredible,” Beardsley said. “When you look at where they are right now as a football club, they are one of the best teams in Spain and a top club who do things the right way. I hope we get the chance to play them.”
Atletico Madrid will compete in Group D with English debutants Stoke City, HKFA U-20 and Yau Yee League Select.
In Group B, West Ham United will face Hong Kong champions Kitchee – the 2011 winners and last year’s finalists – Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG and HKFC Captain’s Select
Group C features five-time champions Aston Villa, first-timers Wellington Phoenix of New Zealand, a Hong Kong Premier League team to be confirmed and hosts Hong Kong Football Club.
In the Masters Tournament for over-35 players, Wallsend Boys Club and USRC – BTS are the top seeds in Group A, which also features HKFC Veterans, Kowloon Cricket Club and debutants Kitchee All Stars.
Seeds Citibank All Stars and Nottingham Forest Mobsters headline Group B, which includes SCC Tigers, Discovery Bay and HKFC Chairman’s Select.
This year’s 10-team Masters Tournament has a new format, starting with two round-robin groups followed by the Plate final between the third-placed teams in each group, Cup semi-finals for the top two teams in each group and Cup final.
Entry is free on the Friday evening, while tickets for the weekend are priced at HK$160 per day or HK$300 for a two-day pass and are available through Cityline (www.cityline.com). The tournament will kick off at 6.00pm on May 29 with 10 Masters group games.
Group A: Newcastle United (ENG), Leicester City (ENG), BC Rangers (HKG), Singapore Cricket Club (SIN)
Group B: West Ham United (ENG), Kitchee (HKG), Shanghai SIPG (CHN), HKFC Captain’s Select (HKG)
Group C: Aston Villa (ENG), Wellington Phoenix (NZL), HK Premier League Club TBC (HKG), Hong Kong Football Club (HKG)
Group D: Stoke City (ENG), Atletico Madrid (SPA), HKFA U-20 (HKG), Yau Yee League Select (HKG)
Group A: Wallsend Boys Club (ENG), USRC – BTS (HKG), Kitchee All Stars (HKG), Kowloon Cricket Club (HKG), HKFC Veterans (HKG)
Group B: Citibank All Stars (INT), Nottingham Forest Mobsters (ENG), SCC Tigers (SIN), Discovery Bay (HKG), HKFC Chairman’s Select (HKG)