A night to remember - or a night to forget? [Part I]

This coming Wednesday evening, West Ham United will participate in the club's first European Final since losing 4-2 to crack Belgian outfit Anderlecht back in 1976 when they take on Serie A's Fiorentina.

Thousands of Hammers fans have already began making the journey to Prague, with up to 20,000 supporters expected to descend upon the Czechian capital between now and midweek for the match, which is being played at the Eden Arena.

Several members of the KUMB team - both current and former - will also be making the 800-mile pilgrimage East, so before those travelling packed their suitcases we asked them to offer their thoughts on what may lie ahead - along with their favoured starting XI and a score prediction...

Chris Scull (Ex-KUMB Podcast Presenter, WHUFC Match Day Host)

I can occasionally convince myself that I'm a grizzled old West Ham fan who is numb to the fluctuations in our fortunes; but there really is something different to this.

I've always looked on in jealousy at older fans who would've tasted delirious success in the sixties, as well as cup wins and European tours in the seventies and eighties. And yet, almost sneakily without me really noticing, here we find ourselves in our first European final in 47 years and on the cusp of the greatest triumph of my lifetime.

And not only that, what would be the ONLY triumph I will have tasted as a lifelong West Ham and England fan (with all due respect to the InterToto Cup).

After the UECL semi final, my friend Nick and I, having survived the battle of Alkmaar, repeated these words long into the night: this is history.

It certainly has that sense; the enormity of what awaits us in Prague is not to be sniffed at. I'm nervous merely writing these words. These are a different kind of nerves to the ones I experienced during our play off finals in 2004, 2005 and 2012. This wouldn't be a triumph born out of relegation failure; this would be a triumph born out of us being, genuinely, one of the best teams in Europe. These are nerves over winning an actual, proper trophy.

I've read about Fiorentina and I know all about us, obviously, but let's face it; anything could happen in a cup final. Just yesterday I imagined us being 2-0 up and suddenly worried that this exact scenario had happened in the FA Cup final of 2006 and whether that knowledge might spook our fans and players. In short, my head is already completely gone.

What is exciting though is I'll be hosting the 'fan meeting point' (it's official UEFA title) in Prague; a decade and six months on from starting the official KUMB Podcast in a tiny box in Soho with Gnome and James Longman. Hoping to bump into plenty of KUMB alumni out in the Czech Republic. But most of all, hoping to make some amazing memories with friends and family that will see me through the rest of my days. Because ultimately, isn't that what it's all about?

Prediction: Fiorentina 0-2 West Ham

Starting XI: Areola; Kehrer, Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd; Soucek, Fornals, Rice, Pacqueta; Bowen, Antonio

John Allen (Writer)

Thankfully I'm not charged with the responsibility of picking the team for our biggest game in decades. I'll happily leave that to those far more informed and qualified. But that doesn't stop me having an opinion – and the 11 players I'd start with on Wednesday evening include Said Benrahma for his attacking creativity, just edging out Pablo Fornal's industry – but it was a close run thing.

Big games demand big players and I believe our big players - Rice, Paqueta and Antonio will step up to the plate on the big stage next Wednesday. For me there appears to be a relaxed confidence about the players at the moment. There's been an obvious air of ease and togetherness in and around the camp since our Premier League status was assured. Plus a tangible sense of determination and focus to bring the trophy home.

The boys are on a mission – one I believe they can achieve. Italian clubs don't give goals away easily – we've always known that. Fiorentina are no mugs and will have all the usual continental tricks up their sleeve. It could be a very cagey affair – probably nothing like the free-flowing footballing spectacle I was privileged to witness at Wembley back in 1965.

But to be honest, I'm not interested in the means – just the end! A repeat of our 2-0 victory over Munch 1860 would be perfect – but I'm thinking it might be closer than that. I'm going for a 2-1 scoreline – and a night in Prague that I might not remember with too much clarity the day after.

Prediction: West Ham Utd 2-1 Fiorentina

Starting XI: Areola; Coufal, Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd; Rice, Soucek, Paqueta; Bowen, Antonio, Benrahma

The Pink Palermo (Moderator, Writer)

We've always known it, these days we sing about it, in our own ironic way, but Wednesday will see us come of age and we really will be massive. The volume at the Eden Arena will be cranked up to 11 with the 6,000 of us lucky enough to get tickets giving it all we've got.

43 long years without a trophy, an absurd barren spell when compared with the five trophies picked up in 1964, '65, '66, '75 and '80, will come to an end when the Moyes Boys show us their full range of talent. Whisper it quietly , but at our best we really are quite good.

I expect Fiorentina to come at us creating the opportunity for us to break on the counter, and i fancy Bowen to bag a brace as a consequence. Michail will head one in from a set piece, but the golden moment will come when Rice carries the ball 50 yards forward , their defenders being swatted away like flies, and finishes his time in a West Ham shirt lashing in the 4th from 30 yards.

A moment of glory for him on a night never to be forgotten.

Prediction: 4-1 to us, a night of glory for the famous claret and blue.

Starting XI: Areola; Coufal, Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Paqueta, Fornals; Antonio

BristolHammerFC (Moderator, Writer)

It's a Sunday in 1992 and Channel 4 have just launched Football Italia. I have to pick a team. I glance at my orange and blue pony trainers, a remnant of a Miami Dolphins Channel 4 era.

Fiorentina are on and they sound exotic, so they will do. I didn't stick with it, but my link to Fiorentina irrationally stayed. Now they take on my side. Not a chosen side but a side ingrained into my DNA. Football has changed, but the thrill of all eyes being on West Ham evokes memories of 1980. I am feeling that tingle of excitement and fear. We could be great or we could fall but we are there.

I feel we need experienced players and an ability to not get drawn into the antics of European flopping fish tactics. So Areola in goal, Coufal right back, Zouma and Aguerd at centre back, Creswell on the left. Rice and Soucek sitting in front. I would play Fornals, Paq and Bowen with Antonio up front. Fornals gives you a bit more defensively than Benni. 0-0 at half time and 2-1 at full time to the mighty Hammers.

My only regret will be that Sullivan gets to associate himself with it. An irony given his disdain for cup games.

Prediction: West Ham Utd 2-1 Fiorentina

Starting XI: Areola; Coufal, Cresswell, Zouma, Aguerd; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Paqueta, Fornals; Antonio

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Gordon Thrower (Moderator, Writer)

This is going to be a bit self-indulgent - so sue me.

The last time we won a (major) European title my late Dad went to Wembley. Dad remembered one thing about the journey home. On the walk back to the station he noted a lot of Germans dressed in stereotypical-style lederhosen and those hats with the little feathers in them. They were smiling and sharing bottles of what was presumably some sort of schnapps with a load of people Dad recognised as dockers. It was all smiles and handshakes with one of the Royal Victoria's finest being heard to say: "Who'd have thought I'd have been walking down the road, arm-in-arm, drinking with a bunch of Krauts?"

To put this into context, for many people – including Dad – the Blitz was still something fairly fresh in the mind, particularly in the East End. Dad disliked much about the modern game but until his latter years I used to get him up to matches once a season – something he enjoyed more for the increasingly rare Dad and Son time than the football itself.

Whilst he was in hospital after his first heart attack he threatened me with all sorts of beatings if I didn't go to the last game at the Boleyn while he was stuck in hospital. So while I am out in Prague, I will have one part of my brain focused on the fervent hope that I can become the second Thrower to see us win a European trophy in the flesh. If you see me come and say hi – I'll be the one shedding a tear win or lose raising a glass and saying to Dad – this is all your bloody fault!

Prediction: West Ham Utd 2-1 Fiorentina

Starting XI: Areola; Coufal, Cresswell, Aguerd, Zouma; Soucek, Rice, Paqueta; Fornals, Bowen, Antonio

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