Myself and Dave Walker got planning our Australia adventure as soon as the club confirmed they were going to Perth. We had previously scheduled events in Brisbane when the club announced a previous tour which was sadly then cancelled because of Covid.
It was a massive disappointment for us because we had Ian Bishop lined up to fly over and be a guest of a pre-match event. We had supporters coming from all over the country and it was a real shame to have lost that opportunity. So we were delighted to be able to have another go at organising two events on the other side of Australia on the West coast.
Our first move was to get in touch with the Perth Hammers and see whether we could use the same venue as they did for their meetings. Thankfully the Empire Bar was completely up for it and not only did they offer to host it for free, they gave us a discounted offer on beers, wine and food meaning we could advertise the cheapest beers nearest to the ground.
With West Ham due to play two games against Perth Glory and rivals Spurs, we took the opportunity to host two events whilst out there. Obtaining pre-match guests was the biggest challenge. We spoke to pretty much every Australian that had played for West Ham in the hope we could persuade them to attend.
From the very get-go Richard Garcia who managed 16 games for the club in the late 90s and early 20s was on board. He was very easy to deal with and enthusiastic to be a part of it. We then approached Robbie Slater, who is a top bloke and has worked with us before, but he couldn’t get time off work to travel to the other side of Australia.
We then managed to get Perth Glory’s assistant manager and former West Ham academy player Chris Coyne to agree to attend. We also asked if his brother Jamie could come too. He was also in West Ham’s academy and played a significant number of games for Perth Glory.
The one we wanted to join us to complete the line up was Stan Lazaridis. The popular winger was discovered on the club’s last tour to Australia in 1995. Despite several calls to the man and a couple of rushed chats we were unable to complete the deal.
As time progressed, Chris Coyne was unfortunately dismissed from his position at Perth and no longer wanted to take part. We then found out that the club had booked Richard Garcia as an ambassador for their work over there. This left us with two events and no guests.
We spoke to the club and thankfully after a bit of persuasion, they agreed to allow us to have Richard Garcia for one event and Carlton Cole for the other. We still wanted to make sure, however, that our Australian fans had the best experience they could.
We wanted to bring out one more guest and one that we knew the crowd would like. Step forward Mad Dog Martin Allen. Now for those of you that listen to our weekly show with the aggressive midfielder, he likes to spend most of the show taking the mick out of me.
So it was a big gamble on my part, both financially and for my overall experience, to take Martin. Not only were we bringing him out there but I had to sit next to him for 17 and a half hours on the plane.
But bringing Martin was the best decision we made. He hosted both events superbly and added such humour and character to our week away. It really was an amazing experience and I am now desperately trying to negotiate with my wife and children to move out there.
Everything was so to my taste from scenery, to people, to food and drink, to way of life. We were lucky enough to go to both games too where the atmosphere was brilliant in the West Ham end.
It was the first time many of the Australian-born hammers had ever seen the team play live and they made the very most of it. The performances were not the best but two wins including one against Spurs is lovely regardless of the stature of the game or the location.
Whilst we were out there, we watched an Aussie Rules game. West Coast Eagles against Richmond Tigers. Whilst the game was a little hard to understand for someone that had no prior knowledge, I really got into it eventually.
Despite them getting easily beaten in the game, I have now adopted the West Coast Eagles as my team. I really must give a shout out to the various supporters we met out there. It is easy to dismiss the love for the club of people who were not from a local East End family, but I can assure you their passion and love is just as strong.
You cannot help but be impressed by the knowledge and love that they have for the club. It was an absolutely amazing week and I really wouldn’t have changed a single thing about the experience.
Already we are hoping West Ham do a similar tour next season to another great location so we can put on another event. A massive thank you to everyone that helped us get this event on the road.