Fans out in force in NZ

Wherever West Ham United have been in New Zealand over the past week, members of the Claret and Blue Army have been out in force.

The squad has met up with Hammers fans at the airport, the team hotel, at Open Training sessions, at Wednesday's meeting with Wellington Phoenix or simply in the street.

On Wednesday afternoon, more than 500 supporters of all ages gathered at a central Auckland pub to prepare for the evening fixture at Eden Park, where they sang 'Bubbles' and 'Come on you Irons!' repeatedly before welcoming a special guest in Joint-Chairman David Gold.

The meet was organised by the Kiwi Hammers Supporters' Club, whose co-founders Nick Daly and Joe Foale were among the throng of fans to welcome Mr Gold to New Zealand.

"It's just brilliant to get everyone from New Zealand together," said Daly, 21. "We talk on Facebook all the time but to see everyone here in the same place, it's just brilliant to catch up with everyone.

"To put faces to names is just fantastic."

David Gold supporters

David Gold meets the Claret and Blue Army in Auckland

Foale, who emigrated to Wellington from Dagenham as a child, and Kiwi Hammers member Andrew Quinn said supporting West Ham is as important to New Zealanders as it is to fans anywhere else in the world.

"My Dad worked at the Ford factory for the last 30 years, so I grew up in Dagenham and it's just part of the culture when you grow up in east London," he explained.

"Everyone in my school was a West Ham fan and went to West Ham games."

"For me, it started back in 1979/80 when I went to my first game in London and it was at West Ham, so I've supported them ever since." added Quinn ,53.

"I think we're all genuine fans. We like the game and the game played well. We've also got a working-class mentality, so we do the right thing every time we turn up.

"We appreciate good football and good support and that's what West Ham is all about."


Hammers from all over the world have invaded New Zealand

Daly, who joined thousands of his fellow countrymen and women at Eden Park on Wednesday, believes West Ham supporters are among the most loyal and committed in the world.

"I think the West Ham fans are absolutely fantastic and our passion for the club is fantastic," he said. "You'd struggle to find a passion like you find at West Ham.

"Going to the Boleyn Ground is just an incredible experience and seeing that many fans in the same place at the same time is awesome. It's just a great club - what more can you say?"

For the trio, the sight of West Ham actually playing two matches in New Zealand was one they never believed they would see.

"It's absolutely amazing!" exclaimed Foale, who attended the game with his girlfriend Kelsi. "Who would have thought that seven years ago when I emigrated to New Zealand that West Ham would be here!"

"I remember saying a few years ago when David Beckham came here, 'imagine if West Ham ever came over!', so it's incredible to see them over here and Winston Reid coming home," said Daly.

"He's a huge influence on New Zealand football and I've heard many fans say they wish he was English!"

"It's eleven years since I left the UK and tried coming out here," Quinn revealed. "We got an idea in around January or February that the Hammers might come out and now they're here and it's just like being at home!"

All three, plus hundreds of fellow Kiwi Hammers members, will be at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday afternoon, where they will cheer West Ham on against A-League side Sydney FC.

You can be there too. For more details about ticket sales, click here.