Heavy rain failed to dampen West Ham United spirits as the Football United Tour to New Zealand continued on Monday.

The Hammers headed for North Harbour Stadium under blue skies, but that quickly turned to torrential rain as Sam Allardyce and his staff put the players through their paces.

After a warm-up and six-on-six drills, the squad played a practice match before drying off and returning to the pitch to kick-around with youngsters from Winston Reid's old school - Milford School from the Auckland suburb of North Shore - and his junior football club, Takapuna.

Milford School
Youngsters from Milford School joined the Hammers

Takapuna
Winston Reid keeps an eye on players from Takapuna FC

Again, hundreds of supporters turned out to watch West Ham in action, including groups from across New Zealand and as far afield as England and China. The heavy rain that started to fall midway through the session sent many of those fans and media scrambling to the back of the stand for shelter.

The Hammers will hope for more favourable conditions when they take on A-League side Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park in Auckland on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm before flying down to Wellington to face Sydney FC on Saturday at 2pm.

The first fixture is expected to be attended by around 20,000 fans, including Eric Xu and Jie Xu from Shanghai in China, whose reason for following West Ham is certainly unique.

Jie Xu and Eric Xu
Jie Xu and Eric Xu have traveled from Shanghai, China

"Usually when we play FIFA 14 we like to play as West Ham United because we like Winston Reid," explained Eric, 32. "When they came to China, we got a photo with Winston Reid. We have already got tickets and we will be there on Wednesday night.

"We are West Ham fans and football fans, so that's why we're here. It was a 12-hour flight to here, but it was worth it. Next, we might go to London to see West Ham play against Manchester United or Manchester City!"

"It's because of him that we like West Ham because we watched Winston playing for New Zealand against China in Shanghai two years ago," confirmed Jie, 31. "We realised he is one of the best centre-backs in the world, so we thought this was an opportunity to come here to watch the game. That's why we decided to come here.

"New Zealand drew 1-1 with China and we were pretty impressed with his play. We like [Leicester City's New Zealand striker] Chris Wood as well. We basically support every single New Zealand player.

"We hope West Ham can beat Wellington if that's possible, by two or three goals. We might go to Wellington too, but we're not sure. We'll see how it goes. If West Ham play well, we might go down there as well."

The post-training sessions with local youngsters were played alongside a curtain-raiser event for the Football United Tour featuring New Zealand celebrities. Among them was Miles Davis, a native East Ender who is now one of New Zealand's most-popular radio talk show presenters.

Miles Davis
Miles Davis with two of his West Ham United-named sons

Davis, 55, has named four his six ons in honour of West Ham - Jack Lewis Redknapp Cole, Cole Billy Hurst Boleyn, William Robert Westham and Charles Neil Brooking - and is also coach of the Takapuna Hammers U11s side.

"I came over here 30 years this Christmas and I'm still here!" Davis explained. "I did some work for radio at the 1998 World Cup, when I followed England, and it started there. I got into sport radio and now I do general talk radio.

"I was five when I went to my first match, when my foster parents took me along and I just remember the excitement and I've been with love with them ever since. Four of my boys have got West Ham names, too.

"I think it's a massive thing West Ham coming to New Zealand. This is going to set a new benchmark for West Ham over here and set up a new fanbase over here. We are a good family club and we have connected really positively with the community over here, so hopefully we can get a couple of good results too.

"I am at the same club that Winston Reid played for as a kid, as for the last six years I've been coaching the Takapuna Hammers, who are aspiring eleven year olds. Winston is a big name around the club and everyone is so proud of what he has done."

VIEW MONDAY'S FACEBOOK PHOTO GALLERIES

After lunch, the afternoon saw the Hammers head for the High Performance Sport New Zealand National Training Centre. There, the players used the state-of-the-art facilities used by the country's best athletes.

First, the players were split into groups to do work tailored to their individual needs to get the most out of the session. This saw players doing mobility, strength, lateral movement, hamstring and groin strengthening work and yoga at four different stations.

After marveling at the talent of some of New Zealand's most talented young athletes, including gymnasts, weightlifters and pole vaulters, the squad moved to the swimming pool.
There, a team session was held combining basic hydrotherapy and a variety of breath-holding exercises.

High performance
Matt Jarvis showed his prowess in a breath-holding competition

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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