Willie Donachie

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Willie Donachie has admitted that there is pressure on his reigning Citibank Hong Kong Football Club International Soccer Sevens Champions to perform when this year's competition kicks off on Saturday.

Last summer the tournament was a venture into the unknown for Newcastle, who surprised everybody by lifting the trophy, but this time around the Far Eastern public will be expecting big things from the Magpies.

And with two of the ten-man squad - Sammy Ameobi and skipper James Tavernier - having played in the Barclays Premier League last season and no fewer than four others boasting senior experience, Donachie wants his side to prove their pedigree against youngsters from all over the world.

United are in Group B along with Leicester City, Southern District and Hong Kong Football Club Captain's Select, while the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa, Rangers and Sunderland are all represented.

"It'll be interesting - on paper we've got a strong team - to see how they perform," Donachie told nufc.co.uk before watching his players train in temperatures of up to 34 degrees on Friday morning.

"We're the champions so people are looking at us and we've got players who have league experience now: Sammy, Brad (Inman), Conor (Newton), Dummy (Paul Dummett), Tav and so on. We should do well but in a cup competition, anything can happen."

Friday's training session was their second of the trip, with Thursday seeing youngsters from the nearby West Island School invited to join in and take on United in a practice match. 

"There are a lot of ex-pats over here who love football and it was a great experience for those kids - but it was also good for our young players to mix with so-called 'ordinary people' and it was a bit of a warm up for us," Donachie explained.

"Playing against local kids, it's not a hard game and for us it's getting used to the climate, so it works on a lot of fronts."

Ever since Newcastle touched down in the Far East on Wednesday afternoon, they have been given a great welcome from the locals, Hong Kong Football Club's soccer section chairman Neil Jensen and his staff.

And Donachie said: "The people are fantastic here. The organisation's superb and so's the food, and it's nice to get a bit of warm weather after that Newcastle winter!

"Everything about it is first class. It's a great trip and I'm desperate to win. How desperate the players are, we'll find out over the next couple of days."

The Club's official website, nufc.co.uk, is the only place to follow Newcastle United's progress in the Citibank Hong Kong Football Club International Soccer Sevens with match reports, photographs, reaction and more