Following a Premier League team from the opposite side of the world can be a difficult hobby, especially if it means waking up at some ridiculous hour of the morning and watching the game.
In New Zealand, we have two supporters groups dedicated to following West Ham United closely. Kiwi Hammers was formed in 2012, following the club’s promotion back into the Premier League, and is the largest group as it has just over 650 members on Facebook, however New Zealand Hammers is the oldest as it was formed in the 1970’s and it has over 130 members in the separate Facebook group as well.
Speaking to Kiwi Hammers co-founder Joe Foale, I asked him why he follows the club, as well as other questions as well.
Joe, you’re one of the founders of the Kiwi Hammers group, aren’t you?
JF: Yup yup! Nick Daly and I started it back in the day, Andrew Quinn (Quinny) joined about six months into it.
What got you interested in West Ham United?
JF: I grew up in Dagenham so it was very easy & natural for me to become a Hammers fan. I grew up in an Arsenal supporting household and had actually gone to see both Arsenal and Dagenham & Redbridge play before heading to Upton Park.
A lot of my friends at school were West Ham fans so I sort of knew a bit about them, but one day as was at Victoria Road watching Dagenham play a Premier League side in West Ham and saw a skillful young Joe Cole and a electric pacey striker in Jermain Defoe tear them apart.
Kiwi Hammers is the largest supporters group in New Zealand, with over 650 supporters. What was the inspiration for kick-starting the group in the first place?
JF: 677 and damn proud of it! To be honest I bumped into Nick at a Wellington Phoenix game, we were both wearing West Ham tops and got chatting & had a beer. The playoff final vs Blackpool was coming up and we thought it'd be a good opportunity to get some people together.
We started approaching everyone we saw and posted on a few forums that we're going to gather at Four Kings to watch the game, next thing you know about 80 people show up! We started up a Facebook group & it was steady, really kicking off to the user base with the Football United tour.
What was your reaction to the news of the Football United Tour, more specifically, your reaction to West Ham United Coming down under?
JF: Oh mate, I didn’t believe it at first, I sort of expected something like what happened with the recent announcement of the Australia trip (which was subsequently cancelled) but as it got closer to the time it got realer & realer and the group just kept growing and growing... it was the best couple of days of my life
When West Ham were here, you had the opportunity to rub shoulders with David Gold. What was it like chatting to our co-owner?
JF: It was intense! I remember being so nervous at the time but really he was quite down to earth. He had a beer and was very open to chatting with the supporters. I know he gets a hard time but you can tell he really loves the club.
Looking ahead to this season, we've signed four excellent players. What are your thoughts on the club's transfer business? Is there a player you'd love to have at the club?
JF: If I had a magic wand, I’d go for someone like Messi, Ronaldo or King Carlton Cole. For a more realistic option, I’d love if we could get Mario Lemina from Juventus. Someone to strengthen the midfield and provide solid competition for Noble, Kouyate and Obiang
I’ve always wanted to ask you this; Why the love for Carlton [Cole]?
JF: Hahaha, I love that he showed some genuine passion for the club and always played football with a smile on his face. He stuck with us through some of our darkest times and I heard that he took a pay-cut post relegation where he was offered a pay-rise to go to Stoke. He was part of the side that got us relegated and wanted to get us back where we belong. He was also actually an awesome player for us under [Gianfranco] Zola too!
He definitely showed a lot of passion for the Club while with us. What are your thoughts as we move into the 2017/18 season? Do you have any expectations for the club?
JF: I would be content with another top 10 finish and would like us to challenge for europe. Maybe a cup semi-final minimum too.
I am conscious though that we have 4 new first team players and a lot depends on how quickly they gel together, but I’m really excited and think we have one of the best squads in my lifetime
And finally, Slaven [Bilic] only has this season on his current contract. Would you like to see him stick around for a few more years, given how he's building a terrific squad for this season?
JF: I am always an advocate of sticking by your manager... so yes. So long as he does okay this year, I can take a spell of bad form but if he finishes lower than 12th might be time to thank him and bring in another manager.
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