West Ham United are relishing their Football United Tour of New Zealand, say manager Sam Allardyce and his players.

Big Sam sat down alongside captain Kevin Nolan, New Zealand national team skipper Winston Reid and Andy Carroll to address the Kiwi and international media on the squad's arrival on the other side of the world.

There, all four spoke glowingly of the unique welcome they received from Maori group Haka International and their enthusiasm ahead of fixtures with A-League sides Wellington Phoenix (Eden Park, Auckland, 23 July, 7.30pm) and Sydney FC (Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 26 July, 2pm).


"It's fantastic for us to travel and experience this part of the world," Big Sam confirmed. "We're all really looking forward to it and our pre-season is going to be enhanced not just by us taking a tour but also from a cultural point of view.

"We're all very much looking forward to seeing the sights of New Zealand, as well as playing football here and promoting West Ham and the Barclays Premier League worldwide.

"I've heard so much about New Zealand from Winston and from [former All White defender] Ryan Nelsen, a former player and captain of mine at Blackburn Rovers, and it has a lot to live up to, such was the level of their praise. They said that once I'd visited, I'd want to come back again and again, so hopefully I'll be making more trips in the future.

"Our welcome was fantastic. It's a tradition for New Zealand and we've all seen the Haka before, but we'd not seen the whole thing and had it explained to us as it was. It was very interesting and a great welcome from our point of view."

"We'd planned to visit this area of the world if someone was willing to put a package together. It wasn't just about coming this far - we needed to make sure it's set up and controlled and organised properly. We spent a lot of time in negotiation over travel, where we're staying and where we're going to play and is that the right place for us to go to make sure we were in the right place for our preparation for pre-season as well as promoting the Club and the Premier League here.

"The organisation and communication with all parties has been very good and hopefully it'll run as smoothly as I think it will."

The manager said West Ham's visit would offer football fans from across the Oceania region an unique opportunity to see a Barclays Premier League team first-hand for the first time.

At the same time, the tour will represent a chance to test the squad against two sides from the ever-improving A-League in Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix, with tens of thousands of fans set to turn out for both matches.

"For us, it's about being out there with the public and the people from New Zealand who support the Barclays Premier League, who can now come and see a team live for probably the first time in their lives," he added.

"It's about us growing the brand by being here in the flesh in New Zealand and spending a lot of time with the fans. We've scheduled a lot of community events, photo and signing sessions and it's important to show that side of things when you come out to a place like this."

All Whites skipper Reid echoed the manager's sentiments, but was not impressed by the grey skies and single-figure temperatures that greeted the Hammers in the depths of the New Zealand winter.

"It's good to be home but the weather is a bit rubbish!" he joked. "For me, it was nice to see that welcome because I've been used to them my whole life.

"For the guys, it was a diffferent experience but one they will have cherished and will remember for the rest of their lives."

From a football side of things, Reid, Nolan and Carroll believe the Football United Tour will help the Hammers to prepare for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season. All three, like their manager, are desperate for the squad to avoid picking up troublesome injuries during their stay in New Zealand.

For Reid and Carroll, the challenge of staying fit is one they are relishing after a 2013/14 season ruined by ankle and foot problems respectively.

"I was out for four months and I came back into the team but it was a little hard to get going again but I got there in the end," said Reid. "It will be nice to get another full pre-season under my belt. I'm just looking forward to a pre-season with no injures."

"Obviously we've added a few attacking players to the ranks and we'll have the Big Man available for the start of the season, which is a bonus," added Nolan. "Last season was very difficult with the injuries we had and the chopping and changing we had to do.

"I'm really confident that, this year, if we can keep Andy fit and with the signings we've made, is going to be a very good one for us."

Carroll is equally determined to stay fit and show everyone exactly what he can do in a West Ham shirt.

"It's a very important pre-season for me after I had a very bad season last year with injuries. It's important I stay fit and do everything right with the medical staff."

Tickets for West Ham's two Football United Tour matches are available to buy here.

Flight, ticket and accommodation packages for the Football United Tour are also on sale now, with prices starting from as little as NZ $216 (£110) per person. For full details, click here.

Football United Tour

Wellington Phoenix v West Ham United
Wednesday 23 July 2014, 7.30pm (local time)
Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand

Sydney FC v West Ham United
Saturday 26 July 2014, 2pm (local time)
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand

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