Personally, my head says yes, but my heart is in that state of quandary and is 50/50 on the argument.
Every Hammers fan has the romantic notion of a European night under the lights at Upton Park and one that I’ve been fortunate to witness in the past, however infrequent. I can just about recall the 75/76 ECWC exploits when we reached the final against Anderlecht, but only just.
Here’s an anecdote for you. I was going to the same primary school as the daughter of Frank Lampard Senior and met him at the school gate before the game and wished him luck. Maybe it was my fault we didn’t win. I should have kept my 9-year-old mouth shut.
However short our run in this year’s competition, it didn’t seem like fun to me. As we all know, we entered the qualifiers via the dodgy Fair Play League, which has now been abandoned – and quite rightly so – and then ironically had three players sent off in the first three rounds. That must be a record.
We easily brushed aside a team from one of the smallest European countries, but probably should have scored more at home and just about did enough away. When the Maltese came to East London, I had a bad feeling. Too much positive press speculation, too many West Ham fans saying how easy this will be and I just couldn’t help feeling that this wasn’t going to be a good round for us. I had the same feeling on Saturday versus Leicester. I think I’m right in saying that a Maltese team had never beaten an English team, and then we turned up. Then it was Astra and all over with a ridiculously under strength team sent out to grab a win or high scoring draw. It was never going to happen.
Now we have only the domestic season to concern ourselves with. In a way, I am quite happy with that. It is an argument that will divide Hammers fans, but my feeling was always that the Europa League is a bit Mickey Mouse anyway and the importance lies with a good finish in the Premier League and even maybe, possibly, hopefully, could it be, a trophy.
I like the way Bilic intends to play, I like his man management, I like his knowledge of what good football means to the claret and blue and I’m not bothered that he wasn’t first choice. He knows what we all know, we need to avoid relegation and finish as far up the table in our last year at the Boleyn Ground. We would probably have done it even if we’d stayed in the Europa League, and why can’t athletes on mega bucks per week be able to play two games a week? I would guess that Newcastle, Everton and Spurs thought the same, and now Southampton.
However, each of those sides, playing two games a week over a period of time saw their league form dip alarmingly. Everton only picked up their league form once they were knocked out of Europe last season, Newcastle struggled and I think we’ll see the same for the Saints.
In my opinion, despite how the two David’s might have felt about it, despite how many of our fans must have felt about it and the vitriol after we were knocked out, I think Bilic knows where his priorities lay and I think Europe was a year or two too early for us. Another argument must be that would Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna etc. have joined us if it wasn’t for some European adventures?
I think the lure of the Premier League is more enticing because that’s where the money is. The only money worth having in Europe is in the Champions League. This season, the Europa League winners will receive £11million, whereas, the Champions League winners with TV money will earn £70m. The Europa League is the poor relation and the fact that Bilic seems to want to concentrate on the Premier League, I think is the right call for the club.
Look at the money earned in the Premier League last season. West Ham finished 12th and received £73.35m. If we can climb to 7th where Southampton finished, they earnt £79.55m.
Europa League? Thanks for the memories.