KIERAN GILL: West Ham can salvage some pride with another European run
KIERAN GILL: Last year’s European adventure is a distant memory for West Ham after being dragged into a Premier League relegation scrap… but David Moyes and Co can salvage the season and some pride with another famous run in the Europa Conference League
- West Ham sit fifth from bottom in the Premier League amid a miserable season
- Their run to the Europa League semi-finals last year feels like a lifetime ago now
- But Hammers are dreaming of another European run in the Conference League
Instead they can turn their attention to their first-leg trip to Larnaca in the Europa Conference League’s last 16, a competition which can be this club’s saving grace this season.
While survival is West Ham’s top priority – Moyes often refers to the Premier League as their ‘bread and butter’ – Europe is where their supporters can still dream.
It is where the London Stadium staged its greatest night to date, a 2-0 win over Sevilla. It is where they laughed at Lyon’s fireworks and flares and whistles and drums to triumph 3-0.
It is where Craig Dawson turned into ‘Ballon D’awson’, Declan Rice showed leadership beyond his years, and Mark Noble dreamed of the greatest goodbye. It is where supporters sang about how ‘massive’ they are and how they had ‘super David Moyes’ at the helm.
West Ham’s run to the Europa League semi-final last season feels like a lifetime ago now
Hammers fans were serenading their manager with regular chants of ‘super David Moyes’
This season Moyes has been taunted with ‘sacked in the morning’ jibes with his side scrapping it out in the Premier League relegation battle
West Ham sit fifth from bottom in the league and are out of every domestic cup competition
That feels a lifetime ago now. By contrast, Moyes was serenaded with songs of ‘sacked in the morning’ after last weekend’s 4-0 capitulation by Brighton. Any currency he saved up from last season’s European adventure is now spent.
West Ham are fifth from bottom in the Premier League. They are out of the FA Cup, losers to Manchester United a week ago. Out of the Carabao Cup, beaten by Blackburn on penalties.
That makes the Europa Conference League the club’s one remaining hope in an otherwise ghastly season. It is where Rice, if he is to leave this summer, can sign off in style. Where Moyes could earn some forgiveness. Where West Ham can qualify for next season’s Europa League.
They won all six of their group games – the only side to have ever done so in this relatively new competition – and now face a Larnaca side sitting second in the Cypriot First Division.
Larnaca are without Pere Pons – one of their more influential midfielders and premier signings at £2.2m – while their greatest goal threat is 35-year-old captain Ivan Trichkovski.
Even their manager, Jose Luis Oltra, has conceded how much stronger West Ham are than Larnaca. On paper, it should be a straightforward passage to the quarter finals.
Some may say it is a ‘Mickey Mouse’ competition, though if it is good enough to move Jose Mourinho to tears after winning it with Roma last season, it should not be snipped at.
But Moyes’ men can salvage some pride in Europe as they prepare to face Larnaca in the Europa Conference League last-16
The Hammers make the trip to Cyprus for the first leg of their last-16 battle on Thursday
The final is set for June 7 in the Czech capital of Prague, and Vladimir Coufal has already promised his team-mates he will take them out on the town if they can go all the way.
There’s a long way to go before that can happen, of course. Tough ties to navigate in between a Premier League scrap for survival and no room for errors.
But as West Ham head to Larnaca, they must embrace how much this competition matters if they want to salvage some pride out of their 2022-23 season.
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