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We were beaten 1-0 last Saturday by West Ham. That wasn’t the result any of us wanted whether we were sat in front of our television sets at home or enjoying what proved to be a superb weekend for the New Zealand Clarets in Wellington.

It was the second big weekend for the group. They first met last March for the Spurs game when New Zealander Chris Wood scored our goal in a 1-1 draw but, despite the result, they had a fantastic time.

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It all started on the Friday night at the D4 Irish pub in the centre of Wellington where landlord Dermot really looked after them, even putting on a 9 a.m. breakfast on the Saturday morning. It gave them all chance to catch up on events since last March as well as make new friends before they all set off for the races.

Now this is where it gets a little bit like England. The plan was to head to Trentham Racecourse by train but there were problems on the line which meant they all had to jump on a replacement bus to get there and two designated areas both inside and outside.

The team bet on the eighth race was on a horse called Wekaforce. There is a reason for choosing this particular horse; it’s owned by a friend of one of the NZ Clarets. That didn’t help, after a great start it faded away so can be filed alongside Knock On Wood which was their choice last March at Ellerslie Races in Auckland. They are hoping for third time lucky later this year in Christchurch.

The big race was afterwards, to get back into the city, a quick change and into the claret and blue before going to the Whistling Sisters pub. Their function room was all decked out in claret and blue with shirts, programmes and flags, and then the main guest of honour arrived, the Padiham Predator himself, Andy Payton, by Zoom of course.

I didn’t know Payts had played for a while in New Zealand as a young player but he spoke about that, about the other clubs he’d played for but most of all about Burnley. Payts was top drawer, he’d even sent out a signed shirt for the raffle. They will be making a donation to the foodbank at Burnley Community Kitchen from the raffle which is brilliant.

Mark Taylor has to get a mention at this time. The group have started what will become a tradition with the ‘Dick of the Day Hat’. It’s an old 1970s claret and blue number donated by Martin Moore with Mark becoming the first recipient. What had he done? He backed a horse at the races, then changed his mind so went back to change the bet. His first choice would have won him $125.

Sunday morning was match time for them. All excited, they were joined by around fifteen West Ham fans who had brought children, as had the Burnley group, to create a good family atmosphere.

Tom Greenwood, one of the organisers, told me: “The result is almost irrelevant. More friendships have been made and we are really looking forward to our next meet up later this year which will be our first national one in the south island.” He also added that the weekend proved to be a tonic for a couple of members who had lost family members in recent weeks.

Tom has asked that I thank Paul Dicken, for arranging the venues, Keiron Monks, for making the arrangements with Andy Payton, and, of course, Payts himself who made the weekend very special.

Also special mentions for Rob Taylor, Dan Fitton and Heath Phipps while I’d also like to thank Tom for liaising with myself and a group of them for even putting up with me via a video call which would have been Saturday morning in New Zealand.

Most of them have moved to New Zealand from these shores and Tom concluded: “We will always love home, particularly at tough times like these, but despite our amazing new lives in New Zealand, knowing that we have ‘some of our own’ down here means that we all feel just that bit closer to our Lancashire home.

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