All go in Toronto

West Ham United are hard at work in Toronto and not just during their intensive pre-season training sessions.

The 22 players and coaching team, including Tony Carr and his academy staff, have been down to business in the Canadian city with some gruelling sessions. Monday afternoon saw a first work-out at the BMO Field home of Toronto FC where Thursday night's MLS All-Star Game will be taking place. On Tuesday morning, everyone decamped to Ontario Soccer Centre for a longer workout.

Luis Boa Morte and Matthew Etherington have been stepping up their sessions as they look for a first pre-season appearance while the club's strengthening and conditioning coaches have also been busy with gym sessions to complement the work out on the training pitches. Lucas Neill said: "We are here for hard work and we have to look at the bigger picture. We have a season to be preparing for.

"We worked hard on Tuesday and on Wednesday will work harder than we normally would leading up to a big game. Thursday we will have the day off waiting for the game at night. We are all really excited. It is the biggest and best players in America and we are getting to take them on in what is a really well promoted event. We are just privileged to be part of it."

"It will be great to test ourselves so early in the pre-season with a sold-out crowd against all the best players in North America live on TV to millions all over the world. What more could you ask for? It is the kind of game that excites every player." Neill has been pleased by "how fit and strong" the squad is, as was shown in Sunday's 3-1 win against Columbus Crew in Ohio.

He added: "We have got the nucleus of the team that we wanted to play last year and it never happened. With Scott Parker, Julien Faubert and Craig Bellamy back the pace and the threat is there. These guys are starting to look fit and sharp and with three or four more weekends to go before the first game I am really excited about what could possibly be a very good season."

With the news from back home that Kieron Dyer is back in full training and George McCartney has signed a new five-year contract, the players in Toronto are firmly in the spotlight. Neill has led the way with players signing autographs and posing for pictures after Tuesday's session. It was open to the media and the captain joined the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Scott Parker and Dean Ashton in talking to broadcasters and press from the US and Mexico, as well as Canada.

Neill said: "We are really delighted to be here and the football exposure we are going to get is great. We didn't realise how many West Ham fans there are over here which is pleasing and obviously Major League Soccer is trying to take off. You can see it is working by the crowds coming out to see us. There is a lot of work to do but the more times high-profile teams from England and all over the world come and play the bigger soccer is going to get."