Sam Allardyce is relishing the prospect of West Ham’s 10-day Football United Tour across New Zealand, insisting the squad can’t wait to get started against Wellington Phoenix on Wednesday.
Speaking in front of the waiting media following the club’s arrival Down Under, Big Sam described the chance to travel and experience this part of the world as a “fantastic opportunity” for the players.
The manager has already heard plenty of positives from New Zealand skipper Winston Reid and retired All White Ryan Nelson.
"We're all really looking forward to it and our pre-season is going to be enhanced not just by us taking a tour but also from a cultural point of view,” Allardyce said.
"We're all very much looking forward to seeing the sights of New Zealand, as well as playing football here and promoting West Ham and the Barclays Premier League worldwide.
"I've heard so much about New Zealand from Winston and from Ryan Nelsen, a former player and captain of mine at Blackburn Rovers, and it has a lot to live up to, such was the level of their praise.
“They said that once I'd visited, I'd want to come back again and again, so hopefully I'll be making more trips in the future.”
The Football United Tour sees the Hammers and fellow Premier League club Newcastle United take on A-League outfits the Phoenix and Sydney FC, culminating in a double header at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Standing alongside captain Kevin Nolan, Reid and England international Andy Carroll, Allardyce spoke glowingly of the unique welcome the club received from Maori group Haka International.
"Our welcome was fantastic,” he said.
“It’s a tradition for New Zealand and we've all seen the Haka before, but we'd not seen the whole thing and had it explained to us as it was. It was very interesting and a great welcome from our point of view.
"We'd planned to visit this area of the world if someone was willing to put a package together. It wasn't just about coming this far - we needed to make sure it's set up and controlled and organised properly.
“We spent a lot of time in negotiation over travel, where we're staying and where we're going to play and is that the right place for us to go to make sure we were in the right place for our preparation for pre-season as well as promoting the club and the Premier League here.
"The organisation and communication with all parties has been very good and hopefully it'll run as smoothly as I think it will."
Culture aside however, Allardyce believes the tour will represent a chance to test the squad against two sides from the ever-improving A-League in Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix.
"For us, it's about being out there with the public and the people from New Zealand who support the Barclays Premier League, who can now come and see a team live for probably the first time in their lives," Allardyce adds.
"It's about us growing the brand by being here in the flesh in New Zealand and spending a lot of time with the fans.
“We've scheduled a lot of community events, photo and signing sessions and it's important to show that side of things when you come out to a place like this."
To see West Ham training click here.
Football United Tour
Sydney FC v Newcastle United
Tuesday 22 July 2014, 7.30pm (local time)
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Wellington Phoenix v West Ham United
Wednesday 23 July 2014, 7.30pm (local time)
Eden Park, Auckland
Sydney FC v West Ham United
Saturday 26 July 2014, 2pm (local time)
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle United
Saturday 26 July 2014 4.30pm (local time)
Westpac Stadium, Wellington