West Ham could build permanent Phoenix links

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2014
Winston Reid
Getty Images
KIWI CONNECTION: West Ham defender Winston Reid scored an own goal as his side crashed out of the League Cup to lowly Sheffield United in English football action.

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West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce says a long-term relationship could potentially be forged with the Wellington Phoenix.

Allardyce and Winston Reid, the West Ham defender and All Whites captain, were part of a press conference in Auckland yesterday ahead of this week's Football United tour - which also brings fellow Premier League club Newcastle United to New Zealand to face the Phoenix and Sydney FC.

In May, Phoenix manager Ernie Merrick spent time with Allardyce in London, and with the West Ham first team now making the reverse trip for a pre-season tournament, Allardyce agrees there is a foundation for a solid professional relationship.

"Yes, it could be. Any relationship you can have with another club is very good," Allardyce said.

The West Ham boss suggested it was too early for any such partnership to be yielding player swaps or loans - but that could be a reality within a handful of seasons.

"I think from a distance point of view that could be quite difficult. We do have a lot of these relationships that we couple up in Europe on the basis that when you're sending coaches over, the distance is not too far, we run on a similar season and similar climate, so we have one or two clubs there.

"But to expand out as far as this, at this moment in time, we're not ready for that," he said.

"In two or three years, when we move into the new Olympic Stadium, then I think we've got to think worldwide branding, connections and communications more.

"But at the moment we're feeling our way back into the Premier League and trying to sustain our position there first before we expand those types of relationships."

As for the Phoenix, who face West Ham in Auckland on Wednesday night, Allardyce says he expects a tough game against Merrick's men - partly because his squad have limited time to learn about their hosts.

"We know the game will be tough, and the team we will be playing against will be really up for it, they're going to be motivated to play against us," he said.

"The competition falling at this stage will be tough, tougher than what we've faced at the moment, which is the right preparation for us going forward.

"On the basis of when we came to Sydney with Blackburn, I'm not so sure [the standard] is the top of League One, I think in some cases it's as good as in The Championship.

"So I do expect it will be a tough match for us. But my focus, it's about getting the lads together and performing at their level.

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"Opposition that they've never met before is also pretty interesting for a player. In the Premier League they tend to know who they're playing against week in, week out, but this one, it's a different story for them.

"They have to work out for themselves, pretty quickly, who they're playing against, what their strengths and weaknesses are. It's a bigger challenge for the players because they won't know a lot about them."

Reid, a man of few words, was typically standoffish yesterday, and said while he was happy to be home temporarily, quipped "the weather's a bit crap".

But the ankle injury that dogged his last Premier League season is clear, Reid said, and he was looking forward to plenty of game time in the tank.

"Obviously I was out for four moths last year and it was hard to get going again, but I got there in the end," Reid said.

"It would be nice to get another full pre-season under my belt.

"Now I'm fully over my injury, but I'm looking forward to a new season and, touch wood, no injuries.

Newcastle United are scheduled to arrive in the country at noon.

- Sunday News

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