Having the time of our lives

Maybe it's time for a little perspective as our heroes march on in their conquest of Europe... but there’s not much chance of that at the moment!

I mean, there are folk already booking hotels in Seville for the Europa League Final on May 26 at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Beautiful city, 43,883-capacity stadium and all the Estrella that, if not Pablo Fornals, the rest of us can drink.


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The Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan


But I can only plead for a little restraint. There is such a long way to go, some really big teams in the tournament and a few more than decent ones who could drop out of the Champions League if they finish third in the group stages.

Mind you, the general high levels of expectation is hardly helped by Jarrod Bowen suggesting we could go all the way. But with his luck at the moment, he’s entitled to think anything is possible!

Our all-action front man said: “We could be the team to look out for, we are only a few games off a big cup run.” OK, down boy.

And then there is Joe Cole saying “this is the best West Ham team in 30 years.” There are some that would say that there is not too much competition there, but in the general desire to get back into Europe (joke) I’ll let that one pass for now.

Quick aside here... the Joe Cole-Carlton Cole double act on BT is quality, although you have to be a West Ham fan to appreciate the knock-about humour. Carlton is gaining confidence on air by the minute while Joe is a perfect foil.

Ok, back to reality. Bowen is right though that we must finish top of the group - and we are four points away from that now. If we don’t and finish second, we run the risk of walking into tough Champions League drop-outs in the play-off round.

At the moment that would be one of Club Brugge, Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Atalanta, Lille or Zenit St.Petersburg. And Villareal and Atletico Madrid could also fall into the group.

So as I said at the top of the piece, let’s get some perspective into this. We still need to qualify for Europe next season, so Premier League points must take precedence.

We have only lost this season to Manchester United and Brentford, both Sunday games after a Thursday game in Europe and we have Spurs on Sunday with them having rested their big guns (stop laughing at the back) specifically for what is clearly their cup final!

But, hey, our form at the moment is two defeats in 15, so Spurs are right to rest their first team and send the stiffs to get beaten in Arnhem.


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Fire: West Ham can't stop winning in Europe


Our first half display against Genk left something to be desired we were fortunate to not be behind at the break, but Craig Dawson’s header set us on our way. I don’t go with the cruise control line.

Genk were naive in the extreme. Nobody should play zonal marking at corners against us, it’s like taking candy from a baby. And they didn’t learn from the Dawson goal and made the same mistake when Issa Diop powered in for the second header from a corner.

Genk have a reputation in Belgium for conceding from set pieces and crosses, and we can see why.

I must admit though, this run is bringing back memories. And I would argue this run is already the best in our European history. Three wins, seven goals, none conceded. Only three times in our European campaigns - that started in 1964 - have we won three times on the trot. And on all occasions, we conceded goals.

The first was in 64-65 on the way to winning the ECWC. The two quarter finals against Lausanne saw us win 2-1 and 4-3, with the semi final first leg that followed against Real Zaragoza being a 2-1 win. Brian Dear was on fire then, scoring four of those eight goals.

Next was the Intertoto Cup run of 98-99 when we beat Metz 3-1 in the final and then followed that at the beginning of the following season with 3-0 and 3-1 wins over Osijek.

Finally, and I refuse to really consider this realistically because it was against pub teams in the Europa qualifiers, Lusitanos were beaten 3-0 and 1-0 followed by a 1-0 win over Birkirkara.Yes, I’d forgotten about them too.

And now we have our three latest Europa League ties against Zagreb, Rapid Vienna and Genk, all teams regularly in Europe with Champions League experience.

Our next two, away to Genk and Rapid, will be tough and will decide our fate. So let’s hang onto the dream but show a little perspective. Me? Well there’s a reason I let my son handle my football travel. And he already has us booked into a hotel in Seville.

Not easy, perspective, is it?

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