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The Hammers' All White Winston Reid will tackle Newcastle on home soil

Phoenix get the jump on the A-League with West Ham, Newcastle coup

The Hammers' All White Winston Reid will tackle Newcastle on home soil


The Kiwi franchise haven't often been seen leading the way but they've pulled off an impressive coup by luring two Premier League sides to New Zealand at the same time

By Iain Strachan

They might sometimes be considered the poor relation to the rest of the A-League, but Wellington Phoenix have got the jump on Australian clubs this time by securing matches against West Ham and Newcastle United.

Sure, there have been visits from some big-ish names of British, European and world football in the past few years - Everton, Celtic and Boca Juniors to name a few.

And the arrival of West Ham and Newcastle to New Zealand won't match the massive interest shown in Liverpool and Manchester United's Australian exhibition games last year.

But to organise a double-header involving the two Premier League clubs (and Sydney FC) is a rare Phoenix coup, and should be the model for other A-League clubs seeking to organise money-spinning, profile-raising off-season friendlies.

Such mini-tournaments are de rigueur in Europe and elsewhere, with Ajax having staged the pre-season Amsterdam Tournament from 1975 to 1992 and 1999 to 2009. The Emirates Cup has been hosted six times by Arsenal since 2007, with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Juventus among the past participants.

The largest such undertaking to date is the excitably titled International Champions Cup, the second instalment of which will see Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Roma, Internazionale and Olympiacos reel in the cash across the United States during a two-week circus at the end of July and beginning of August.

Australia can't harbour realistic ambitions of emulating such a star-studded roll-call of the world's biggest clubs just yet.

But with domestic and regional TV and merchandise markets in mind, A-League club should join forces to try and match the Premier League Asia Trophy, a biennial event which has been staged in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China since 2003 and has involved Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, among others.

It's been tried before, with Perth Glory hosting Wolves, Fulham and North Queensland Fury in 2009.

A year later, Sydney FC staged the 'Festival of Football', with matches between the Sky Blues, Blackburn Rovers, Rangers and AEK Athens.

But both of those proved to be one-offs, with neither club able to build it into a recurring event.

West Ham and Newcastle are certainly the biggest clubs yet to commit to concept, and the time is ripe to lock in more high-profile visits in years to come. 

Locking in regular visits from big UK and European clubs as part of a recognised format could be tied in with the A-League All Stars, and perhaps also included the current reigning domestic champions.

Start planning now FFA, or risk being left behind by the United States and Asia.