Phoenix angle for big English match

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 16:04 28/01/2014

OPINION: I wrote a yarn last week in the Dompost saying Wellington Phoenix were looking at bringing over one or more English Premier League teams in July.

It’s hard yakka trying to uncover information when the main parties involved aren’t in a position to speak freely.

But what I uncovered was three teams - West Ham United, Everton and Arsenal – are all in the running to play the Nix.

The Gunners would easily be the biggest draw card but I have a hankering to see the Hammers, managed by big Sam Allardyce.

My reasoning has nothing to do with the fact that All Whites captain Winston Reid plays for West Ham, or that I support the club. I don’t.

Rather, it has to do with a meeting I had with Allardyce way back in his playing days with Sunderland.

It was December 1980 when a 16-year-old Budgie went on a six-week trial to Sunderland Football Club in the north-east of England.

After a joint first team-youth team training session, I was plonked on a chair in the club’s gymnasium to face questions from the players about New Zealand in what they termed a ‘Kiwi Mastermind’.

Throughout the ‘Mastermind’ session, the impressively moustachioed Allardyce hung upside down from the bars of the gym equipment booming out monkey impressions.

I don’t know why but it was quite funny and I’ve had a soft spot for the big man ever since.

At the time, Sunderland’s playing roster also included former West Ham goal scoring machine Brian ‘‘Pop’’ Robson who scored 94 goals in 227 appearances for the Hammers.

Robson was in his mid-30s by the time I meet him but still scoring goals. He put this down to playing table tennis, something he said improved his sharpness.

Interestingly, a few weeks back Sydney FC’s Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero said playing table tennis as a youth helped turn him into a world class footballer.

It makes me wonder whether West Ham training in 2014 includes table tennis sessions with Allardyce hanging around impersonating a baboon. Somehow I doubt it.

Which would you like to see come to New Zealand?

- © Fairfax NZ News

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