FIVE things we learnt from West Ham’s pre-season tour

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West Ham – Defensive numbersPre-season in Australasia usually means following the fortunes of the team via the gossip columns and sporadic reports of friendly matches.

The Football United tour of New Zealand this year gave fans from Down Under the chance to watch West Ham ahead of many in the UK, for once.

So now the team are back in the Northern Hemisphere, what can we say we learnt from their trip over?

The ‘new system’ isn’t overly different to the old system

Even Sam Allardyce’s most ardent defenders couldn’t argue the football on display was notably more “expansive” than what was offered last season.

Despite using the excuse after the game against Sydney FC, Allardyce failed to acknowledge the tactics remained largely the same, except the side seemed to have lost the defensive resilience which earned 14 clean sheets last term.

There was still a considerably direct approach, including flicking the ball wide to Matt Jarvis, Stewart Downing and Ricardo Vaz Tê before sending it aimlessly into the box over the head of Carlton Cole, who is simply not a target man.

Nevertheless, the side looked infinitely better when the likes of Mauro Zarate, Matthias Fanimo, Aaron Cresswell and Diego Poyet were allowed to utilise the ball on the deck – surely a signal for Allardyce and a point of optimism for the West Ham support.

Cresswell could solve the left back dilemma

Aaron Cresswell, signed from Ipswich Town this summer, has the potential to be a mainstay in the West Ham backline for years to come.

The 24-year-old fullback, known for his blistering pace and attacking intent, looks good value for his five-year contract.

His prowess was most notably on display when he exchanged passes with Cole on the edge of the box before unleashing a powerful shot that rippled the side-netting.

A concern that was voiced among the travelling claret and blue army was Cresswell’s lack of endeavour in tracking back, and the manner in which Wellington winger Tyler Boyd and the attacking unit of Sydney FC tormented him throughout the games.

Hopefully these issues can be addressed, as Cresswell certainly has the ability to be a consistent player if his defensive capabilities are refined.

Regardless, despite being lamented for signing his old Bolton Brigade and over 30 has-beens, Allardyce has now laid the foundation of a strong, youthful defence.

The arrival of Arsenal loanee Carl Jenkinson to provide competition for Guy Demel and Joey O’Brien also bodes well, with Hammers fans now hoping a deal can be struck to keep Kiwi central defender Winston Reid at the club.

The squad and staff are incredibly personable

From the start to the finish of the tour, the squad and staff were extremely accommodating and eternally patient as fans clamoured for autographs and photos, with the youth players noticeably receptive to the attention.

Ricardo Vaz Tê proved to be the favourite, with fans discovering that he spends much of his free time reading, he speaks at least four languages and is highly knowledgeable; all while being very approachable.

Neil McDonald was the amiable face of the coaching staff, taking time to individually talk to fans in contrast to the understandably more reserved approach of Allardyce.

Co-Chairman David Gold visited fans at O’Hagan’s Irish Pub, in Auckland, and received a raucous welcome, taking time to meet with fans and talk about the team.

Former heroes are just as revered by current players

When the question “who is your favourite ever West Ham player”, was posed to a panel of players, familiar names were mentioned including the popular choice Paolo Di Canio.

Leo Chambers cited Rio Ferdinand as his biggest influence, while Poyet, newly signed from Charlton Athletic, said his footballing idol was three-time Hammer of the Year and former Addicks’ star, Scott Parker.

Meanwhile, Danny Whitehead will surely be on the receiving end of some banter from his teammates after announcing Mark Noble is his favourite Hammer.

And on the terraces, renditions of songs referencing cult heroes, including Di Canio, Ludo Mikloško and Christian Dailly, could regularly be heard coming from the West Ham fans.

We sing what (and when) we want

Our fans will sing, regardless of whether we are winning, or even playing for that matter.

The occasional negative chant during the 3-1 loss to Sydney FC was drowned out by a rousing chorus of BubblesOver Land and Sea or Come on You Irons. But it was during the Wellington-Newcastle game that the true spirit of West Ham fans came to the fore.

120 minutes of Twist and Shout was bellowed from the away end, led by Brisbane Hammers Chairman and media darling Dave Rhodes.

Such was the spectacle, many Phoenix fans took to filming the Hammers, with the footage making it onto morning TV the following day.

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The Sydney Hammers supporters club is the officially endorsed supporters club for West Ham United fans living in and around Sydney, Australia.

We are the fastest growing and most passionate football fans group in the city, and are committed to following the Hammers through highs and lows from Down Under.

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