Irons sip from poisoned chalice

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The Europa Cup has become something of  a poisoned chalice for most English clubs.
There is no doubt Everton’s poor Premier League campaign was in part caused by playing in the competition. Tottenham too felt their chances of challenging for the top four were compromised by their involvement in the tournament.
As everyone knows West Ham’s absolute priority in the Premier League is to stay in it in the ramp up season to the Promised Land of the Olympic Stadium.
So understandably club policy for  for a  tournament  reached via the back door will be not to throw  all their best resources at it in the early qualifying rounds.
It seems ridiculous that the first matches of the qualifying rounds will start as soon as July 2…the Hammers learning who their opponents will be when the draw is made next Monday the same day as Slaven Bilic starts his work  at Chadwell Heath. In that sense though there is perhaps  a big positive about participation.
Involvement in the competition offers Bilic the opportunity to cut his teeth as the new West Ham boss in competitive  matches which could help him “hit the ground running” when new Premier League campaign starts.
It also gives him the opportunity to assess first team fringe players and those from the development squad who will play in the qualifying rounds. One of the several frustrations of  the Allardyce regime was , Reece Burke aside, his refusal to give emerging young players  a proper chance.
The Europa Cup will now give the likes of Elliot Lee and Diego Poyet the chance the state their cases to Bilic that they should not just be part of the 25 man Premier League squad but also be fully involved.
If the qualifying rounds are negotiated and the Europa League proper is reached  such players can form part of a “hardcore” of the squad for that tournament which will then be strengthened by a clutch of front line players on a suck it  and see basis.
And those of us of a certain generation can’t deny there would be a sense of nostalgic excitement about  midweek European games  especially in the Boleyn Ground farewell season.
For me two of the most memorable games I ever watched with my old man from the Chicken Run came in the 1975-76 European Cup winners Cup campaign. The 3-1 win over Den Haag. Then the 3-1 semi final victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Indeed when I am asked my favourite West Ham match  of all time I cite that game against Frankfurt , Keith Robson’s wonderful long range goal then Trevor Brooking wading through the mud to score the third, remain vivid images.
Now wouldn’t it be lovely to have some more of that ? But even the romantic in me recognises where the club’s priorities lie.
That said, part of the “fatigue” that clubs say they suffer when they are in the Europa Cup is about mindset.
In 2010 Fulham showed that you can go all the way , reaching the final where they lost 2-1 to Atletic Madrid after extra time  and finishing 12th in the Premier League.
And now not only is there much more participation money to be made the big carrot is that winning the Europa Cup offers a Champions League place.
In that sense the competition is not be sniffed at. But I still can’t help thinking UEFA have got the format wrong.
For one thing kicking off six weeks ahead of most domestic season is clearly stupid.
Then there are three two legged qualifying rounds plus a play off to even reach the league phase. That’s EIGHT games before the season proper starts.
Then again, if the planning is right these matches could be seen as a far better way for Bilic to bed in as boss and new signings integrate into the team ahead of the Premier League season than playing in  sterile pre season matches.
I suspect Bilic will see it that way and recognise that the Europa Cup could well give him an opportunity to impose his will on the team ahead of what in many senses will be the most important  domestic campaign in West Ham history.

About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

11 comments on “Irons sip from poisoned chalice

  1. Good piece Rob,historically clubs have struggled with league form playing Europa league too. Having said that I’d take midtable with a good European campaign and a chance to see all our players get and hopefully take their chances especially the youngsters. Even if we weren’t in it the best we can hope for this season is to be pushing for one of the Europa spots so what would be the point of treating it lightly. I say go for it and let’s all get into it I’ve had enough of this negative fear rubbish that the genius instilled in us,what’s the point if we don’t give everything a go.

    • My thoughts exactly. This is a good chance for us to shake off the Hippo-hangover and blood the squad fully. Let’s get sexy about winning, nice footy and a winning/fighting mentality…

  2. If you look at these matches as competitive pre-season type matches it is spot on!! Great chance for Slav to get the team playing his way!!Plus looking at the fringe players!! Rob has nailed it!!Though Tomkins will probably turn up telling us to fear the team we draw first!!

  3. Great read

    Can you imagine if we won it .. It would be the greatest thing ever. Sneaking through the back door into the competition, winning it and getting into the champions league, that would launch the new stadium in style and wind up a few rival supporters to boot. Well I like to dream 🙂

  4. I was in most of them,
    The old boy who was always ill,( can’t remember his name ) that’s part of the problem,
    Still can’t see a down side to playing in Europe,
    No different then playing friendlies you play to the strength required and Slav gets to know his squad,the youngsters get playing timeZarate and Magia get another chance and if we don’t keep them they go in the shop window,

  5. Haha,you were part of Dads Army were you bubs,lol,love it 😉 As far as i see this european adventure,though an early start is ideal for Slav to watch some of our p!ayers in a competitive enviroment.If he doesnt like what he sees he can bin them with time to bring in others.He also gets a chance to stamp his name on the team style & player mentality before the Prem begins.We need to rid ourselves of the ‘Respect the point’ mentality that hippo has probably left behind in the minds of the players.We need a hypnotist to make the players lose two years of their memory 😉

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