West Ham United meet the animals

West Ham United talked to the animals when they paid a visit to Fota Wildlife Park in County Cork.

The Hammers squad made the short trip from the team hotel at Fota Island Resort to the east Cork attraction. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Fota Wildlife Park became the Republic of Ireland's first such facility when it opened in 1983. Since then, it has become one of the country's most-popular attractions, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting every year.

The Park's keepers showed the players the giraffes, zebra and ostriches before the squad headed to the cheetah enclosure to watch the big cats chase and catch their meat.


Many of the players marvelled at the speed shown by the cheetahs, suggesting they would give winger Matt Jarvis a run for his money, while Mark Noble suggested the giraffes would give team-mates Andy Carroll and James Collins a hard time in an aerial duel!

The West Ham squad also met representatives from the Cork Association for Autism - a charity which supports adults across County Cork with autistic spectrum disorder and works in partnership with Sunday's pre-season match opponents Cork City.

Fota Wildlife Park

James Tomkins and Jack Collison were among those to meet the charity's representatives, while they were impressed by the range of animals on show at Fota Wildlife Park, praising the wide open spaces they have to run around in. The Academy graduates have also been enjoying their first week in pre-season training.

"Pre-season has started off well over in Ireland and we've also come out to socialise with the public and the wildlife! It's nice to take a little bit of time off because we have started off working quite hard," Tomkins, who named the cheetah as his favourite animal, told West Ham TV.

"It's been brilliant here in Ireland. We're all really impressed with the food at the hotel and the staff are friendly and cannot do enough for us. Everyone we have met at the wildlife park has also been really nice."


For Collison, he has had the added bonus of training with his team-mates after a number of pre-seasons when he has followed individual programmes due to his previous knee problems.

"Obviously it's nice to be in and around the boys and it's much better to be working all together rather than doing my own individual stuff.," said the No10. "We've worked quite hard over the first couple of days and everyone is feeling it a little bit, so it's nice to have a little bit of down time and to chill out.

"We have our first game on Sunday at Cork City and that's what it's all about - the gym work and the early-morning bike rides and all that. At the end of the day it's all about playing games and getting games under our belts and getting used to smashing the ball about again."

Fota Wildlife Park head of marketing Stephen Ryan said everyone was delighted to have West Ham visit the attraction.

Fota Wildlife Park

"The players got to see the giraffes up close because we have a very open park here at Fota," he confirmed. "We are lucky to be right next door to the Fota Island Resort where the lads are training so they also got to see the cheetahs training here as well. We do a cheetah run every day where they travel at up to 80mph to catch their food and it's very good for them.

"This is actually Cork's most-popular attraction so the guys are very lucky that they got a bit of time to visit. We also had a great reaction from our visitors, who got photographs and autographs with Joe Cole, Kevin Nolan and Joey O'Brien.

"We're pleased to have West Ham visit us, who we hope will be the first of many football clubs to drop in and see us this season."

For more information about Fota Wildlife Park, click here.