Past Featured Members

Jason Yu

Our next guest needs no introduction. You could say he is the life of the party. If there is a meet up you can bet that he’ll be there. Whether in a pub or on a bus, you better believe that he’s the one who is starting a song. Always singing loudly and proudly at the top of his lungs is the one and only Jason Yu, member of the Space City Lions in Houston.

 

Born in Worcester and growing up South of Birmingham in a town called Droitwich, Jason and his family made the move across the pond to Houston, Texas in 1993. He attended the University of Houston and graduated with a degree in Media Production. By day he works as a market analyst for the state and for ATT Sportsnet Southwest which broadcasts the local teams of the Astros and Rockets. By night he exhibits his musical passion through a Beatles cover band called The Molly Jones and a 90s band called The Monicas. He has also be seen breaking out the guitar to play a tune or two during the North American Happy Hour Zoom Calls!

In September, those passions unfortunately needed to take a back seat when Jason became ill and hospitalized with a reaction to medication that was later diagnosed as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Jason gave a whole new meaning to being a resilient Villa supporter. Even during those times, Jason would set up an iPad and catch every Villa match! Through the pain and puffy eyes, he continued to follow and show his love for this great club. During his hospital stay, Jason’s sister began a GoFundMe to help assist Jason with these sudden medical expenses. As friends and family do, many came together to help out our brother by greatly surpassing the monetary goal. You can read more about Jason’s journey here. Jason’s strength, determination and positive outlook is second to none. Now home, he continues to recover and focus on his health through running. 

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How did you come to be an Aston Villa supporter?

I became a Villa supporter after my father took me to Villa Park during the 1989-1990 season. My brother liked Villa and my best friend liked Villa as well so I decided in the playground at school not too long after going to Villa Park, that Aston Villa was my team. I even wore the Mitre Copiers with the lace top on the plane ride over to the States.

What is your most memorable moment as an Aston Villa supporter?

I would have to say seeing them this year at Wembley for the Carabao Cup Final. Just being at the stadium with all the fans and fellow North Americans lads and lasses was just so much fun.

Who is your favourite Aston Villa player, past or present, and why?

Dalian Atkinson. He was the player I loved to watch when I started watching Villa.

How does your Lions Club celebrate match days?

We go to The Phoenix Pub here in Houston.

What does being an Aston Villa supporter mean to you?

It means the world to me. Villa are my connection to home (England) It is part of who I am. Villa till I die.

What does it mean to you to be a member of your local Lions Club?

I am proud to be a member of the Space City Lions, the members are like family to me. I look forward every match week to hang out with everyone.

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Being a part of the Toronto Lions is more than just a supporters club to me. It's a place for any Villa fan of any background to come and mingle with other Aston Villa fans. A belonging. It's a place where anyone can come and instantly have friends that they can chat, have a good time and create timeless memories with. A cure for that homesickness. A place in Toronto that is as close as hearing that click of the turnstile and feeling that special Holte End vibe. We enjoy each others company, win or lose. One big Aston Villa family.

Brett Bates

Mr. Chairman. Fearless Leader. King of Canada. But you can just call him Brett, or Mr. Bates if you want to get fancy. Chairman of the Toronto Lions (the largest Canadian based Lions Club) for just over a year, Brett has lived in Toronto, Ontario for four and a half years after living in Birmingham with his beautiful wife, Aisha. While living in Birmingham, he was a home and away season ticket holder which allowed him to soak in all of the Aston Villa experiences he could! 

Brett is the epitome of a life long, born and bred, hardcore Villa supporter. You’d be hard-pressed to see him wearing anything other than a Villa top, t-shirt or even socks as he even wore those at his wedding. We’re not so sure that there is anything other than Villa related clothing in his closet. With Villa being the first love of his life (sorry Aisha), it was inevitable that Brett would someday step into the role of Chairman.

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Brett in Minneapolis - Preseason 2019

During his reign he has grown the Toronto Lions membership, connected his members on a regular basis and collaborated with other North American Lions clubs. He is always available to lend a helping hand with various questions and Lions Club projects and puts his heart and soul into growing the Canadian and North American Villa presence. From putting up stickers around Toronto, winning the bid for the 8th Annual North American MeetUp*, or hosting visitors to The Six**, you can be sure that Brett will forever represent the core values of what it means to be an Aston Villa supporter. 

* Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, the 8th Annual North American MeetUp has been postponed. Stay tuned for a new date to be determined at a later time.

 

** A nickname given to the City of Toronto and originates from the six former cities/boroughs that make up Toronto.

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How did you come to be an Aston Villa supporter?

My father was an Aston Villa fan so I have followed in his footsteps. I did not choose I was chosen, as we say.

What is your most memorable moment as an Aston Villa supporter?

I have a long list of fond memories from being a Villa fan. To choose one is difficult but one that has always stuck out for me is Paul Merson's goal against Coventry when we sent them down. That was the first time I had heard the Holte End erupt with that raw emotion, and it has stuck with me forever.

Who is your favourite Aston Villa player, past or present, and why?

I would have to go for Dwight Yorke. As much as it did break my young heart when he left, the memories he gave me in Claret and Blue I will never forget.

How does your Lions Club celebrate match days?

On match day we meet upstairs at the Queen and Beaver Public house on Elm Street here in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Some members have match day traditions, one of my favourites is Andrew Lochhead's lucky underpants and of course the mimosa crew.

What does being an Aston Villa supporter mean to you?

It's difficult to explain to people what exactly it means to support this club. It isn't just your average football club with your average fans. There is something quite special being and Aston Villa fan, whether that comes from being the founding father of the Football League or our success over the years. Maybe it has something to do with having such a special name, there are many United's, Albion's and Citys, but only one Aston Villa. A club that I am yet to witness a poor away day. It could also be that the club has kept us on our toes over the years and dangled success in our face, mixed in with the lows we have experienced, my favourite Villa saying is 'The lows just make the highs higher'. It is a rollercoaster of emotion, and I don't want to miss a second. It's a love that will never die.

What does it mean to you to be a member of your local Lions Club?

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Rick Leong

The Man, The Myth, The Legend. Mr. Rick Leong, Chairman of the California Lions. A longtime supporter of Aston Villa, he has become an important and revered member of the Lions Club community. While organizing a trip for his Lions Club to attend a pre-season friendly in Portland against the Timbers in July 2012, a North American Lions Club partnership with Acorns Children's Hospice was born. In 2012, Rick began a raffle and auction with the sole intention of raising funds for Acorns. Since the establishment of the raffle and auction, which occurs at all North American Annual Meet Up events, Lions Club members have raised nearly $40,000 USD for Acorns. To find out more about this partnership, visit our Acorns page here.

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Rick at Wembley in 2019

Over the years, Rick has dedicated his time to growing and connecting the California Lions to other Lions Clubs in North America and abroad through the management of the California Lions social media accounts and connecting directly with Aston Villa Football Club. His love for football knows no bounds. Having two daughters, one of which plays football and shares his love of Aston Villa, he has had a growing interest in women's football and Aston Villa Women's Football Club. Despite living over 5,000 miles from Birmingham, Rick supports AVWFC through the purchase of season tickets. He had also coached his daughter's football team for 7 years before deciding he wanted a break to just be a "football dad" cheering from the sideline, even if his coaching brain would make that difficult by internally questioning the team coach.. Even in training, their love for Villa shone through as they would arrive wearing Villa gear which resulted with Rick's daughter receiving the nickname "McGinn" from her Scottish coach. 

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Rick and his wife at the 6th Annual North American Meet Up in New York City, 2018
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Rick and his family at the pre-season friendly in Portland in 2012
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Rick with his daughter while coaching her U8 team

How did you come to be an Aston Villa supporter?

In the mid-2000's, I was a volunteer at a local Bay Area children's hospice and had heard of Acorns through this work. At the same time - I was looking for a Premiership team to support and Villa had just put "Acorns" on their shirt. ("I did not choose. I was chosen."). The rest is history. I was drawn by Villa's history, but the affiliation with Acorns said to me that I belonged to Aston Villa.

What is your most memorable moment as an Aston Villa supporter?

Being at the 2019 Playoff Final at Wembley to witness and celebrate Villa's return to the Premier League!

Who is your favourite Aston Villa player, past or present, and why?

Stiliyan Petrov - because of his courage on and off the pitch.

How does your Lions Club celebrate match days?

On match days we meet at The Kezar Pub in San Francisco, CA. We also enjoy the tradition of welcoming many visiting Villa supporters that are on holiday in San Francisco (there are many!) and provide them "Villans By The Bay." hospitality. We have a badge that we issue to those that come out to the pub for match days. These badges say, "I am a member of the Claret & Blue Breakfast Club" as Villa kickoffs are usually early morning ones.

What does being an Aston Villa supporter mean to you?

Being a Villa supporter means that I belong to football tradition that has been alive since the beginnings of English football. Despite being an American supporter, my love for Aston Villa runs through my veins just as much as for my love of my local teams (Oakland Athletics, Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks, San Jose Earthquakes, and yes - even the former "Oakland" Raiders).

What does it mean to you to be a member of your local Lions Club?

Being part of the California Lions means that I am integrally linked to the global Villa family. This is especially so as the many Lions Clubs in North America are really one big family. It also means that ... we are not "glory supporters" and truly love our club through thick and thin. I am proud to have been the founder of the very first Lions Club in the western U.S. and now see clubs being established across the continent.

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