In the end, ''Big Sam'' Allardyce had to give Winston Reid a cuddle.
West Ham's captain for his homecoming tour of New Zealand, Reid was a sombre hombre on Saturday as he reflected on a second straight loss to A-League opposition, this time a 3-1 defeat to Sydney FC.
''Try and cheer up a bit,'' urged the larger-than-life Hammers manager, as he leant over and put an arm around his skipper.
''It's been a hard trip for me,'' Reid replied, breaking into a smile.
Allardyce agreed: ''I know, it is with your demands isn't it?''
''Like the gaffer said ... '' Reid continued.
''We came down here and we expected to do well and we didn't do so well. Now we'll go back home and we'll work on some things. I just want to say thank you to New Zealand for having us down here and I look forward to coming back.''
The All Whites star didn't perform at his usual high standards during the Football United Tour, which was a classic good week/bad week for West Ham.
The Hammers were generous with their time in Auckland and Wellington and raved about the warm welcome they received.
But there are injuries galore and serious problems on the pitch as Allardyce attempts to marry his natural inclination for a direct, defensive style with the new demands for ''sexy'' football.
It smacks of Ricki Herbert and the Phoenix in the ill-fated 2012-13 campaign.
''It seems to be what's demanded in the game now so we're working on that side of it,'' said Allardyce, one of the bookmakers' favourites as the first English Premier League manager to get the sack next season.
''We're experimenting on more open, attacking play and it hasn't worked particularly well from a defensive point of view. I'm just a little sorry today for the fans, that we didn't give them a bit more.''
Reid, who has been constantly linked with a move to glamour London rivals Arsenal, believed that things could be turned around when the season kicks off against Tottenham in less than three weeks.
''I remember two years ago in pre-season we pretty much lost every single game,'' the defender said.
''And the first eight league games we got 14 points ... I knew what to expect from the players that play in the national team. A lot of them play in the A-League so they're not bad players at all."
- The Dominion Post
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