They came, they saw, they all had a great time

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 28/07/2014
Football United 5
Twitter/@ardrigh

West Ham fans singing before kick off as teams walk on the field #FootballUnited14 #whufc @DomPost

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Football fans poured into the city, filling Westpac Stadium as well as pubs and bars around Wellington as the capital resounded to football anthems and terrace chants as hosts of the Football United tour.

Giving the city a flavour of the UK's football culture, West Ham United and Wellington Phoenix fans jammed The Green Man pub in Wellington's CBD at noon on Saturday just hours before the two teams kicked off against foes Sydney FC and Newcastle United.

Restaurant Association president and Wellington restaurateur Mike Egan said there was a great atmosphere of camaraderie for the double-header, a vibe that spilled out in to the city with fans spending up big at bars, clubs and restaurants.

Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester said it had been a glorious winter's day and the capital "could not have put on a better show".

West Ham eventually lost 3-1 in another Antipodean upset to Sydney, while the Phoenix went down 1-0 fighting a solid Newcastle defence.

Although the Phoenix lost, Lester said the way they played proved they were now a credible sporting franchise while the 31,000 tickets sold cemented Wellington's crown as the nation's football capital - the nearly sold out fixture easily eclipsing the 19,000 and 9500 who turned up for other matches in Auckland and Dunedin respectively last week.

Originally from Newcastle, fan Lil Bianchi - now of Sydney - was at the stadium with her Wellington family, son Leon Green, daughter-in-law Kiri Cook-Green, grandson William Cook-Green, 8, and grandson Tamati Cook-Green, 4.

A dyed-in-the-wool Newcastle fan Bianchi visits the capital regularly and said she never thought she would see the day her beloved Toons would visit Wellington.

The occasion was a good opportunity to teach her grandsons a bit more Geordie - both boys are now familiar with the phrase "howay the lads" and are well-versed in "shouting for the Toon Army", which is the collective name for Newcastle supporters.

She said Wellington was a lot like Newcastle: "It's cold, rainy and windy ... but very genuine people, so I think the Newcastle fans will have had a great time here."

Police said crowds were generally well behaved and there were no arrests related to the event.

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- The Dominion Post

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