Moyes: we've been as good as anybody

  • by Staff Writer
  • Thursday, 25th November 2021

David Moyes believes West Ham have been on top form in Europe this season - despite not having featured in continental competition for some considerable time.

Prior to this season it'd been some 14 years since the Hammers had last featured in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup, with more recent dalliances with the competition having ended in vast disappointment during the qualifying stages.

However the manager feels his squad of 2021 have taken to the standard likes ducks to water - and says he hopes they can secure passage through to the last 16 when facing a struggling Rapid Vienna in an empty stadium later tonight.

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"I’m really enjoying being in Europe," he said during his pre-match press conference. "To get into this competition was incredible. We had a great year and I think we’ve done really well. I think the start to the competition we’ve had is as good as anybody.

"We’ve played well in the games and we’re up against really good teams as well, which we don’t take for granted. We’re still growing in it, we’re new to it and we’re still learning on the job, but the games are really exciting and we’re all looking forward to it.

"The only disappointment is not having a crowd [tonight] because the scouts who came out to watch out here said the crowd was fantastic and the atmosphere in the stadium was great. I genuinely mean it, I’m disappointed the crowd isn’t here.

"I’m also really disappointed that we’ve got no West Ham supporters here because all the fans - my family too - were really looking forward to coming to Vienna for a few days. Unfortunately nobody has been able to do that.

"I have to says the players have taken to it really well. Everyone talks about us being one of the favourites [to win the Europa League], but when you look at the Champions League and the teams who drop out of it?

"I watched those games on Tuesday night and I was looking at those teams who could finish third and who could drop into the Europa League. It really becomes a completely different competition then, but if we could win the group it means we get to March before we play our next European game.

"If we finish runners-up, which I think is the worst it can be, we have another game in February. I wanted European football after Christmas time - I thought it would be progress for West Ham - and we’ve achieved that, so I’m really pleased."

And Moyes admitted that he hadn't even considered who West Ham could face in the next round - and won't, until the group stage in completed. "If you ask me if I’ve started to look ahead at who we could get in the next round, my response is ‘far from it’," he confirmed.

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"This is another game where we're learning. We’re new in Europe, we found it difficult in Genk but we played very well in Zagreb, so this is our last away game in the group. We were really looking forward to a big crowd here because we've heard a lot about it and we're disappointed our supporters couldn't come as well, but ultimately we're in lockdown.

"We've still got a bit of work to do and, if we need it, we've still got another game to play later on, but I’d like to secure top of the group on Thursday night. I'd like to get the job done. We've given ourselves a really good start and because of that we've got a little bit of room for manoeuvre.

"We’ve told the players we'd like to get ourselves top of the group if we can. At the start, we were saying ‘could we qualify?’ - now we've got ourselves in a qualification position, it's 'can we go a bit further'?"

And while some supporters may view the behind-closed-doors scenario as a bonus for West Ham, due to the lack of a partisan Austrian crowd, Moyes views the scenario somewhat differently. "Playing behind closed doors again is a challenge," he insisted.

"It's something which we hoped we'd never see again. We all hoped that supporters would be back and that we weren’t going to be back in this situation again. I hope we're able to deal with it.

"I think when it first happened, everybody felt very awkward - the voices, the shouts round the stadium, the screams quite often as well – so all those things which we’ve gone away from in the last six months or more, I hope we’re not back to. At the moment, in the short term, we are."

While West Ham's European campaign is running relatively smoothly - the draw at Genk in their last outing representing the only points dropped so far - Moyes is keen to ensure his squad don't suffer the same issues experiences by teams of a similar stature while having to juggle a European campaign along with a domestic schedule.

"Our challenge is to try and maintain our standards from last season and keep our levels up," he said. "The challenge for the players is to improve on it and try and do better again. The Premier League is so difficult, so tough, the quality of the teams will make it a real challenge throughout the season.

"We’ve been involved in all the games and we want to challenge the big teams now. I’m looking forward to taking on the best and seeing how we do. I see that being the best way forward now with the way the team is evolving and how we’re doing."

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