1. The Claret and Blue Army Down Under
Just shy of 71,000 fans were in the stands at Optus Stadium for West Ham United’s two Unmissable Football tour matches in Perth, Western Australia.
The Hammers might have been half the world away from east London but, yet again, proved we are massive by drawing big crowds to fixtures with Perth Glory and Tottenham Hotspur. In addition, 2,600 turned out at Macedonia Park in the city’s northern suburbs to attend an open training session.
While many were no doubt at Optus Stadium to cheer on Glory and Spurs, the Irons’ UEFA Europa Conference League success has given football fans Down Under a big reason to support West Ham.
That the Hammers then slammed in nine goals in their two games will only enhance the Club’s reputation in a part of the world that truly is crazy about sport.
It had been 28 years since West Ham last visited Perth in 1995, but Australian football fans will hope their Claret and Blue favourites do not leave it anywhere near as long to return in the future.
2. Young Hammers impress
With the Club’s current international players given time off for their summer break after West Ham United’s late finish and their June commitments with their respective countries, no fewer than eight players aged 21 or under were included in David Moyes’ 20-man squad.
Seven were given game-time – third goalkeeper Jacob Knightbridge was not – and all seven showed why they have graduated from the Academy of Football.
Defender Levi Laing, 20, completed the full 180 minutes, appearing at both right-back in a four and right centre-back in a five, and showed good understanding with Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna.
Dan Chesters, 21, showed his versatility and creativity playing as a right wing-back, forcing an own-goal within 65 seconds against Perth Glory and linking well with Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals.
Divin Mubama, 18, scored in both games and arguably produced his best performance in senior football against Tottenham Hotspur, scoring a fine header and causing Cristian Romero and Japhet Tanganga all kinds of problems with his movement, strength and pressing.
3. Embracing the culture
One of the most important aims of any preseason tour is for the club involved to immerse itself in the local community and culture – and West Ham United certainly did that in Western Australia.
The Irons received a Welcome to Country from statesperson Dr Richard Walley of the indigenous Noongar people, first at their Macedonia Park training base and then before both matches at Optus Stadium.
David Moyes and Jarrod Bowen welcomed the State’s Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism Rita Saffioti to training, while Moyes and assistant attended an official reception with Governor Chris Dawson at Perth’s historic 19th century Government House.
Players also met Australia’s most famous animals – kangaroos, koalas and wombats – at Caversham Wildlife Park, and watched the country’s favourite sport, Australian rules football.
4. Honouring Dylan
West Ham United’s visit to Perth gave the Club the opportunity to honour the late Dylan Tombides and support the DT38 Foundation.
Tombides was born and raised in the city, where he played for Stirling Lions and Perth Sporting Club before being scouted by Mike Lee, an east Londoner who recommended the teenage striker to Academy Director Tony Carr.
The 15-year-old was invited for a two-week trial, impressed and, with his parents and younger brother Taylor, moved to England to embark on a career that he dreamed would take him to the top of the game.
Dylan was well on his way, too, appearing for Australia at Under-17 level and scoring freely for the Academy before being diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 17 in 2011. Despite undergoing extensive treatment, making his first-team debut for West Ham and at one stage being given the all-clear, the cancer returned and took his life in April 2014. He was just 20 years old.
Dylan’s mother Tracylee founded a charity, DT38 Foundation, to raise awareness and educate young men to check themselves regularly, as early diagnosis of testicular cancer gives men a far greater chance of survival.
In Perth, Taylor led a number of community and coaching events with local children, supported by Carlton Cole, Richard Garcia and first-team players, while Cole and Kevin Nolan visited the statue of Dylan outside the city’s Rectangular Stadium.
The team also wore the DT38 logo on their shirts in both matches and t-shirts in their open training session, raising awareness for the charity and honouring the memory of an outstanding young player whose legacy will live on forever.