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Hong Kong brings back Happy memories for West Brom boss Tony Pulis

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion are beginning to acclimatise to life in Hong Kong ahead of Wednesday's game with Leicester City, but for boss Tony Pulis, it's a trip that brings back fond memories.

Tony Pulis pictured as a young Bristol Rovers player, but he spent a season in Hong Kong in between his two stints at the Pirates.

Back in 1981 when Pulis was in his early 20s, he left Bristol Rovers to spend a season helping Happy Valley Athletic Association finish second in the Hong Kong First Division.

Although the area has changed dramatically in the past 36 years, Pulis looks back on his life-changing time in the Far East with a smile on his face.

“I had a phone call from Ron Wylie (who became Albion manager a year later) when I was at Bristol Rovers,” he revealed. “He was working in Hong Kong at the time.

“He invited me over, and it was an opportunity for me as I was getting married the following year.

“It was an opportunity to make a couple of bob, put a deposit on a house and set myself up. So I gave it a crack.

“I’ve got great memories of the seven or eight months I spent here,” he added. “We did well on the football field as well so all in all it was a wonderful experience.

“To go over and see how people lived was a massive difference. There were some wonderful people there.

“For a long time, until we moved, the first Christmas card we would always receive – myself and my wife – would be from Happy Valley.”

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This week, temperatures in Hong Kong will be hovering around the 30C mark and humidity is touching 80 per cent, but there are thunderstorms expected each day, and Albion’s first 6am training session on Monday took place in a downpour.

The changeable weather – and the ‘exceptional’ food – are two of the things Pulis remembers best.

“It was a massive shock the first couple of months.” he admitted. “I was still a young person and had always been a resident in the Western world.

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“The weather and humidity when I first went over there was really horrendous but I grew into it and I really, really enjoyed it.

“The food is just exceptional,” he added. “Whether you want to have breakfast or go for a midnight snack somewhere, there’s always somewhere of real quality open. They certainly know how to cook.”

Three years before Pulis went to Hong Kong, Albion had become the first British team to tour China.

It is a trip etched into Baggies folklore for a number of reasons; John Trewick’s famous ‘you’ve seen one wall, you’ve seen them all’ quote, and Ally Robertson drenching chairman Bert Millichip to name just two.

None of those players of the great Albion team of the late 70s will ever forget that tour, just like Pulis will never forget his stint in the Hong Kong First Division before his return to Rovers in 1982.

“I watched the Chinese New Year being brought in overlooking the harbour and they had a big barge and fireworks off the barge," he said. “That will live with me forever, it was amazing.”

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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