Macca excited by New Zealand return

West Ham United travel to New Zealand this summer and assistant manager Neil McDonald, for one, cannot wait to return to the country.

McDonald was part of the Newcastle United squad which visited New Zealand for a post-season tour in May 1985, playing four games against the All Whites.

Full-back McDonald even managed to score in two of them, netting in friendly matches in Christchurch and Auckland before the Magpies took flight to Fiji, where they completed the second leg of their trip.

With such fond memories of New Zealand, it comes as no surprise that the former Newcastle and England U21 full-back cannot wait to return for the Football United Tour in July.

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"It's a lovely place to go to," recalled McDonald. "Yes, it's a long way to go, but we have arranged two games on the North Island, which is excellent.

"It takes me back to the mid-1980s, which is a few moons ago, when I went there with Newcastle and we played against the New Zealand national team four times. We played in Christchurch on South Island, then in Auckland, Napier and Wellington.

"We had a good chance to look around and it's a beautiful place to go, so we're looking forward to it."

West Ham sent fitness coach Eamon Swift and Club secretary Andrew Pincher on a reconnaissance mission earlier this month, during which the pair checked out the transport, hotels, facilities and stadia arrangements.

With fixtures against A-League sides Wellington Phoenix in Auckland on 23 July and Sydney FC in Wellington on 26 July to look forward to, McDonald says preparations are already well underway for what promises to be a memorable tour that will expose West Ham to an emerging football market.

"The preparation will be really good for the squad. We sent them out to make sure everything is OK, which is vitally important and once we get there, we will be well looked after," McDonald confirmed.

"Over the last couple of years, you have seen Manchester United fly around the world to play games and there are a lot of teams into the Far East and places like that.

"New Zealand and Australia are very good places to visit and I'm sure we'll have a lot of fans there who are really pleased that their Premier League team is coming across to play a couple of games. It's a really good chance for them to see the stars that they would usually only see on the TV."

Football United Tour

Incidentally, McDonald's former club Newcastle are also travelling to New Zealand at the same time as the Hammers, taking on Sydney FC in Dunedin and Wellington Phoenix in their home city.

Recalling his previous visit as a Magpie 29 years ago, memories of scoring twice in a 3-2 win in Auckland and once in a 2-1 victory in Christchurch brought a smile to the 48-year-old's face.

"It was funny," he said. "I have relations that lived there and still have an uncle in New Zealand and they came to Christchurch, where I played as a centre forward, believe it or not. We ended up winning 2-1 and I scored the winner!

"It's always nice to win and impress people, especially when you travel that far, and that's what we'll try to do - to show them we're a good team. Results don't really matter at that stage, but we'll be looking for our performances to increase with every game we play.

"We will be playing a good standard of opposition in a fantastic environment as well."

West Ham will be followed by a large number of Australia and New Zealand-based supporters during their tour, while hundreds more are expected to fly in from the surrounding region as well as England.

McDonald is urging them all to make the most of the unique opportunity to watch the Hammers in action in a country they have never visited before.

"They just like sport. New Zealand is classed as a rugby country more so than football and cricket, I suppose, but we will have a great following.

"Reidy keeps on talking about it and he says the crowds will be really good because they love their football.

"The whole world watches the Premier League, so it will be fantastic for them to see the players in person."