This is a response to a recent 90min.com article, which unfairly criticised and doubted West Ham United’s ability and attitude towards European football.
I’m not writing just to 90min.com’s Jeff Grady, but to everyone who doubts the English game by having Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and maybe West Ham United as England’s representatives for next seasons Champions League competition.
The Premier League has recently had the top two teams in the league automatically qualify and 3rd and 4th enter a qualification play-off to earn a spot in the elite European competition.
There is now a sudden panic in the air that the Premier League’s ‘biggest’ clubs are failing in domestically and allowing ‘smaller’ clubs to take advantage. Here’s a relevant fact; the biggest clubs haven’t necessarily been the ‘strongest’ teams this season, as proven by Chelsea finishing outside the top six, Manchester United having to fight out a qualification spot with a heavily invested Manchester City and opportunistic West Ham, while Leicester City have gone on to win the Premier League.
Every team has to start somewhere as they attempt their successful reign. Leicester have no doubt proven that the word ‘impossible’ are now extinct from the the footballing playbook – if little Leicester can do it, anyone can.
It has elevated the Premier League for the right reason, making the league a competition again. In August 2016, 20 teams all have an equal chance to win the title – every team has 38 games to become the best, it’s a level playing field based by a ball being kicked about by 22 men over two halves of 45mins on a weekly basis. Simple footballing philosophy.
Next season, Leicester City make their Champions League debut as a seeded team – yes, a SEEDED team. Teams are seeded for a reason because they have been the most successful in their respective league, in the previous season based on their UEFA coefficient league ranking. The Premier League is in the top two of all 54 (soon to be 55 if you count Kosovo) European leagues, so why would the doubters say that the English teams who qualify for next year’s competition will harm the qualification in the future?
West Ham have a far greater platform than Manchester City to succeed in the competition on a regular basis. That’s because we will be another club from a high profile and large European capital city who would join the likes of Madrid, Milan, Istanbul, Paris and Lisbon.
West Ham’s infrastructure will have a category 5 UEFA grade stadium to host high profile games, numerous public transportation to get to and from games, passionate working class background fans, and an iconic footballing brand recognisable throughout Europe.
Admittedly, West Ham’s two past European football attempts have not been the greatest. The first of those two came from a qualification route by getting to an FA Cup final and playing a team who was already in a higher class of European football. We weren’t ready as a club, as injuries to Dean Ashton and other first team starters hampered the squad – ultimately leading us to sign two non-English speaking, very expensive, third party South Americans by the names of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.
This season we saw West Ham in Europe again after a nine year absence, this time qualifying for being good boys and entering the 1st round of qualification through Fair Play. West Ham’s co-efficient ranking was almost more than double of the team they first met up with, Andorran pub side FC Lusitanos, beating them 4-0 over two legs by fielding a C squad full of reserves and development players – a game where Reece Oxford made his professional debut in midfield.
We then had to play Birkirkara from Malta, a game that tied over both legs and was decided by a winning penalty from Diego Poyet. Next up as a very good Romanian side, FC Astra, a team with previous European experience.
The first game saw a West Ham side playing their strongest squad for the very first time competitively – things didn’t go to plan as Valencia got injured and Collins saw red, which allowed Astra to make a comeback from 2-0 to 2-2. The second leg saw Dicks in charge and a youthful West Ham squad was sent to Romania, captained by Kevin Nolan, and we first saw the diamond Manuel Lanzini give a little sparkle by scoring his first goal for the club. The sparkle was brief as West Ham conceded 2 goals and went out of the competition. The reason behind the weakened squad was because we had Arsenal four days later and our squad wasn’t strong enough to be successful in both games.
With thanks to our early pre-season and competitive European football, West Ham have been breaking records all season and everyone is being rewarded. West Ham need to win three games to at least secure automatic qualification for the Europa League group stages next season. If the Europa League 1st qualifying round can entice players like Ogbonna, Lanzini and Payet, imagine what being in the Champions League will do for the club.
West Ham do not need to sell anyone unless a better replacement is available. The club are looking at players such as Lacazette, Batshuayi, Ibrahimovic and Tore to improve the squad and to be able to add squad depth to gain a better chance of succeeding in major European competitions.
I wouldn’t rule anything out and the over-exaggerated panic of not seeing ‘bigger’ clubs in Europe is a myth. If the media and the Premier League focused on looking after their teams in European competition, like La liga, Bundesliga and many more European domestic leagues do, then we wouldn’t be talking about whether this year’s top four are good enough to maintain our spaces.
Support, faith and belief is what’s needed – enough of the negative and start backing our English clubs to succeed.
I’m West Ham through to the bone and there’s nothing I want more than West Ham playing Real Madrid every season, but I also want to see Tottenham, Leicester and Arsenal do well in Europe. Who else is fed up of seeing three Spanish teams in two European finals? I sure am!
I want to see English teams dominate, play eachother in finals like Chelsea and Man United did in Moscow and I want my beloved hammers to be a part of that.
Come on you Irons!