Is Europe A Welcome Challenge Or Unwanted Distraction?

Compared to some English clubs, the relationship between West Ham United and European competitions has been somewhat limited. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hammers went hell for leather to win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, regarding success in the trophy as a matter of prestige.

At the very first attempt, West Ham won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, then reached the semi-finals the following season. Beaten by Belgian side Anderlecht in the 1976 final, the last foray in the competition was reaching the quarter-finals in 1981, losing to eventual winners Dinamo Tbilisi. Over the last two decades, participation in the UEFA Cup and its rebranded Europa League successor has been sparse. During the 1999-2000 campaign West Ham won one of the three Intertoto Cup finals, although after a 6-1 aggregate victory against Osijec in the First Round of the UEFA Cup, the European adventure was prematurely ended by Steaua Bucharest in the Second Round.

The 2006-07 appearance in the UEFA Cup was ended in just the First Round, as West Ham slumped to a 0-4 aggregate loss to Palermo. As for the most recent Europa League forays, they haven’t fared any better. After struggling to even make it to the third qualifying round in 2015-16, the Irons were dumped out by Romanian minnows Astra Giurgiu. As if that wasn’t bad enough, after making it past Slovenian outfit Domzale in the third qualifying round of the 2016-17 competition, West Ham were once again eliminated from the Europa League by – you’ve guessed it – the mighty Astra Giurgiu. Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, further humiliation has been avoided by failing to qualify for Europe again since then.

Nevertheless, unless there’s a diabolical slump in form between now and the end of the Premier League campaign, West Ham will be playing in one of three European competitions next season. Of course, the big prize for finishing inside the top four would be participation in the Champions League. Millions of fans around the world tune in, via live TV or football streams, as this is the most prestigious club competition in the world.

Given the extra revenue participation in the Champions League brings, it’s hard not to imagine the club wanting to perform well in the elite competition, should the opportunity arise. Games against the cream of the continent would likely fill the London Stadium. However, could the same be said for the so-called less important competitions? Given the most recent history of West Ham in the Europa League, even given the prospect of exciting rivals that can be faced in the group stages and beyond, it’s hard not to think of the competition as an unwelcome distraction for the club. Would they take the Europa League any more seriously than in the past?

The third and final alternative is the new UEFA Europa Conference League, which swings into play from next season onwards. Aimed as an opportunity to give more clubs a taste of the European experience, it will mostly be packed with clubs from leagues with low co-efficient ratings. Stacked with lengthy trips to eastern Europe, it’s tough to see any English club setting that amongst priorities, compared to domestic commitments.

One way or the other, Hammers will most likely be in Europe next season. How appealing that will be depends entirely upon the competition. -Ed Jnr

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North Herts Hammer's picture

any good recruits in the summer by the 3 stooges Nev

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Dartford Bhoy's picture

will be a disaster for us that Thursday Night Euro Disney League :o(

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1 user has voted.

We are not ready for Europe,lets enjoy this season and see what happens next,as we need more depth......Last time dumped out by the Astra Zenecas twice in a row,i had that the other week,and it knocked me aswell the next day lol.

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To play in Europe you have to spend money and bring talented players.

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Deluded Hammer's picture

It's unlikely there'll be any cream European sides in it until the final stages by which time with our squad, we'll be out of it

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