Shep’s blog: Astra comeback a blessing in disguise

SHEP graphicBefore a ball had been kicked I suggested the Europa Cup could prove a poisoned chalice for West Ham  So it has proved and  they would be better off slipping quietly  out of the competition next Thursday in Romania before more damage is done.
Agreed I argued  positives could be taken from the prolonged involvement in the qualifying process in that new manager Slaven Bilic could assess players in a competitive environment not just pre season friendlies and that might  help the team hit the ground running in the Premier League.
The biggest fear was that a key player would suffer injury and that came to pass in Thursday’s 2-2 draw to Astra Giugio when after scoring  Enner Valencia was stretchered off with a knee injury. The Ecuadorian  striker looks like he will miss the opening phase of the season. Even if he doesn’t, the risks are clear.
Given the return leg, which involves an arduous trip  to Romania,  is just four days ahead of the PL opener at Arsenal Bilic now faces a difficult  juggling act.
If West Ham are perceived to send a severely weakened team  for the second leg they could face censure from UEFA but deep down I suspect Bilic and many of the players won’t be bothered in the slightest if this European adventure ends even before it’s properly started.
It would make sense to send a “second string team” out there but still one containing senior but now peripheral players such as Kevin Nolan and Matt Jarvis to give it credibility. And no doubt some players wishing to prove a point will give it a go out there .
But if the Hammers did win there is still a further play off round to play before the Europa League proper gets underway. And as Tottenham and Everton have found in recent seasons involvement in the “Thursday Night Cup” takes it toll and impacts on domestic form.
It’s not like the good old days of white knuckle rides in the knockout formats of the now defunct Cup Winners and UEFA Cups. If the tournament proper is reached it’s a slog and for English clubs awash with PL TV money not one which has the same attraction as for  clubs from poor footballing nations who like the extra revenue  a league format offers.
In the ramp up season  to the Olympic stadium and a brave new world beyond  West Ham simply cannot afford to  have the life sucked out of them  and be dragged  into a relegation battle. So in that sense there is no shame in the circumstance for West Ham to adopt an attitude of “thanks for the ride  it’s been a bit of fun, an eye opener too,  but now it’s time to get off of the train”.
Let’s not forget participation in the first place was an unexpected “bonus”. And how ironic that having qualified via the “Fair Play League” the Hammers have had three players and the manager sent off  in five matches making the team the “dirtiest” in the competition so  far. Maybe that’s a sign that it’s time to pack up the tent.
Of course at 2-0 up against Astra things seemed a bit different but maybe the comeback by the Romanians to put them in poll position in the tie is a blessing in disguise.
For Astra, a team who competed in the Champions League a few season ago, playing in the Europa Cup proper is a big deal financially and a focal point of their season.
For English teams though the Europa League  has often proved a beast of burden and it’s one West Ham can  do without, allowing them to focus on the business of a top ten PL finish  and bidding farewell to the Boleyn Ground on a high .

Share this article

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


  • hammer4life says:

    Agreed. Win lose or draw last night in my opinion this Thursday night stuff is a huge distraction for us achieving our main goal in what is a massive season. It’s not the result that’s important because we don’t have the squad or experience to win the whole thing it’s the wear and tear on the squad. Let’s hope Valencias injury is not too bad. That’s all I care about.

  • West Ham Fan No 32 says:

    I agree that league form would suffer but one invaluable thing that has come from all these bookings and red cards is that the players are being exposed to European refereeing which is in complete contrast to that of the FAPL and if we are to become a regular contender for European places that experience shouldn’t be undervalued, also not to be undervalued is the value Europan involvement adds when trying to secure transfer targets. Send a second string team with fringe players who are still capable of getting a result to Romania and see what happens, I hope the European adventure can continue but like you won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t this season as long as we are competitive in the league.

  • spyinthesky says:

    Yes the Europa Cup is difficult enough as it is but these extra games just make it impractical for us with a squad still too thin on quality, self discipline and plain luck to deal with it overall. I had hoped that we would have used it to attract players which maybe we have done with a few but sadly in not attracting a decent striker which has so obviously been a necessity even before Valencia’s injury is probably the most annoying aspect. In the present situation that one real benefit has been all but lost and the last thing we need is our performances this season to be seriously affected. We were already relying on Valencia to have a much improved season to hope to finish higher than last now we need to work hard to bring in players of sufficient quality to maintain that hope, or worse perhaps if there is further bad luck, even hit the top 12 again.

  • SlimJim says:

    Doom & Gloom descends on The Boleyn & the fans.How many times have we been in europe in the last few decades & now everyone wants to throw it away.At my age i aint too sure how long it will be before my toes point upwards for good.Unlike you young pups i want us to stay in because god knows when we might be in europe again.

  • canchaz says:

    We have wound up exactly where we didn’t want to be. Common sense says bow out now and concentrate on what’s important.

  • bubs says:

    Let’s send our under 18 team out in the FA cup and League cup to so we get knocked out of them as well,
    That’s the ticket come and play for the great Hammers you will get half the year off because all we want to do is not get relegated,
    How many players who are not 31 or older would want to come to a team which lacks ambition,
    Shame on anyone of you with no more ambition,
    So we want players who have no international ability as well so they don’t play extra games
    Let’s just play teams like Southend or Colchester with 10,000 fans so our poor players don’t get to tired,
    This makes my blood boil
    Common sense canchaz we have played 3 games with near full grounds,we have seen players like Zarate,Payet and even Magia play well,we have found out how bad the Players like Nolan are,we have been proved right how good our youngsters could be,
    I hope we win on Thursday and every other game we play and hope the club grows with the wins,

    • BrookingtoDevonshire says:

      I’m with you Bubs.
      Sometimes i wonder how some of these journalists have a job with their lack of football knowledge. To me a player can get injured in the unlike-least situation. Valencia could of done the same in a meaningless friendly like the Bremen game .
      Several players needed 90 minutes last night Valencia,Payet and Ogbonna were 3 to mention. By the looks of it they need another 90 minutes not another easy 30 minutes in a friendly to get the blend right. The team need to play together again with virtually the same line up. Jenkinson for O’Brien, Sakho for Valencia and henry for Collins,which will make us even stronger than in the 1st leg.
      By the sounds of what i have heard so far the players feel the same.
      After the Arsenal game we have a week to recover.

  • SlimJim says:

    Thats it bubs,get it out of your system,lol

  • bubs says:

    Did not include you in the the list of cowards SlimJim,
    They know who they are,
    Scared of the dark,still suck there thumbs,mummy doesn’t let them go to away games in case they get lost,need to be in bed before 8 on a school day,ect,ect,
    I used to be so proud of being a Hammer but now,

  • jaybs says:

    Always concerned me Thursday night games and weekend, we were not ready for it yet, and more so in what will be a important season in The Premiership as we move to the new stadium, but the ££££ income seemed to be more important.

  • bubs says:

    Shame on you jaybs save your money,
    We are more ready with the squad we have now than we will ever be,
    Let’s just hope the like of Payet want to stay with a club with no ambition like some fans

    • Hammerman6 says:

      You know what Bubs, your a real winner.
      Its time that others realised that you need to go out and give 100% to win every game you play in Regardless of time, conditions, opposition, cup, league, Europe or pre-season friendlies. I was against Us going into this competition from the time it was suggested we might qualify, because of the reasons ‘I told you so’ Mr Shepherd has echoed.
      However, now we are in it, try to go out a win it. If you want to be a ‘big cub’ then act like one and try to win everything.
      Lets have no more negativity about throwing in the towel, respecting the point or expecting to lose at the top four grounds.
      COTYI were’s your fighting spirit.

  • hammer4life says:

    Buns. It’s not a case of doom and gloom it’s a case of common sense. We all want to do as well as we can in the PL this year for obvious reasons. We are no going to achieve that if we are getting the s••• kicked out our best players every Thursday night. Yes we do have a great squad and we want to keep it that way. Once we move to the OS we will have more money to invest and then we will be in a position to conquer Europe. One step at a time.

  • hammer4life says:

    Bubs. Bloody auto correct.

  • bubs says:

    No one kicked the crap out of Valencia he fell,
    You have no idea until it happens how much money will be spent unless you are mystic Bradders,and he is a looser as well,
    Until Ginge took his walk we were winning easy,the way we will have more money to spend is to fill our ground in all competitions and keep winning,
    The OS will bring its own fortunes but we need good players and they want to play in Europe,
    Have some faith be a winner not a looser hammer4,
    You can call me buns but don’t call me a coward

  • Michael Miller says:

    Blimey – there’s no flies on Shep – sharp as a tack even after all these years of abuse.

    The Europa Cup is a waste of time and energy and we haven’t got a strong enough squad to compete beyond the Premier League – now we’ll be struggling to put out an attack against Arsenal!

  • HammerAttack says:

    Theres a lot to be said for forums.Used to be that grumpy sods could only moan at the missus.Now the internet & forums let them show the whole world what miserable people they are.Good god,its like listening to a load of guys in a queue for a Samaritans appointment reading some of the comments on here!!

    • jetshammer says:

      You haven’t been on WHTID have you HammerAttack?

      • HammerAttack says:

        No chance bud,not recently,if i had been on there i would be in the queue to see the Samaritans as well.Now that can be a place for the doom mongers,especially on match day if we dont win by about 10-0,lol

  • TysonM says:

    Hmmm,seems this article is officially todays ‘Moan Zone’,lol 😉

  • bubs says:

    Sakho,Payet,Zarate,Kouyate,Obiang,( Noble,Poyet,Samulsun,alfitano,or Jarvis,Burke,
    Reid Tomkins or ( Collins,Henry,Oxford or Oby )Cresswell Adrien,
    What a poxy team you are a dreamer MM and that’s if we don’t sign another right back or Forward and does not include Lee,Magia JOB,Cullen,
    Best squad we have had for 6 years or more
    Did not include Nolan ( if he plays we have major problems )
    MM have some faith,we win on Thursday the team go to Arsenal on a roll playing togeather and for once we come away with a win

  • Muckracker says:

    “All causes shall give way. l am in blood stepped in so far that should l wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er”

    Now that we are in it, lets face it like fighters. How will the Hammers ever become trully great if we fold at the slightest challenge. Dont be comfortable in mediocrity.


  • Stingray Stewart says:

    So we go to Romania,play a weakened team,go out & all people across europe will see is that this ‘big’ premier team got knocked out & we end up looking like mugs.But its ok because some of our fans wanted us out.Screw that,if we are going to go out let it be to a bigger name.Not just curl up in a ball & surrender to this mob.Bloody hell,seems some of our fans have turned soft!!

  • Muckracker says:

    Quite right Stew. Whatever the percieved adversties, they come with the territory. We should just get on with it. Cant get my head round how people can be so scared of Europe

  • Stingray Stewart says:

    Its this Thursday & Sunday thing,its screwed with people & their minds.If we were playing in Romania Wednesday & then playing Arsenal on Saturday people wouldnt be so concerned.They have got Thursday Night Fright Night syndrome 😀

  • cas_blue says:

    Reading all the above, I’m in two minds about it all. I do want us to do well in Europe but I haven’t seen us play well enough in pre season (apart from Norwich) to convince me that we should have high expectations this season. I don’t doubt Bilic’s abilities as a coach but I think it will take time to settle the team and for him to decide who he wants and who he doesn’t. I was livid when Valencia got injured last night and was cursing the Europa League. If we do go out next week, at least we can say we have had a competitive pre season and hopefully put us in good stead for the season.
    I really don’t expect us to do better than 10th this season. There has been a a lot of new faces in and a few more will go out. It’s bound to take time for the team to settle. The players are probably thinking “Boss, you want us to go out and attack? That’s going to take a lot of getting used to”.

  • billy hammer says:

    Lol,yeah they have got to get used to having the ball for the last twenty mins of matches as well instead of back pedalling or all staying on the edge of our box letting the other team play with the ball on their own 😀

  • bubs says:

    So if Valencia had hurt his leg playing against Norwich we would have pulled out of the Premier and carried on in Europe,
    This is nothing to with opinion this is to do with courage being British,Aberdeen and Southampton are not talking this rubbish,
    Men were born with back bones for a reason not to be cowards,
    I thought I was part of a fan base that had a reputation for being real men not spine less xxxx
    We want to get out never mind the women and kids
    You must be so proud to say you are hammer fans ( I give up )

Comments are closed.