Europa League football a fitting reward for West Ham
Following their defeat to Everton on Sunday, hopes of a Champions League spot have surely gone for West Ham this season. However,with Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton still behind West Ham in the table and just a few games left to play, the Europa League is still very much in reach and would be a just reward for a superb season.
For a team such as West Ham, the usual remit is either mid-table malaise or a scuffle with the relegation zone and with David Moyes at the managerial helm, nobody really expected the East London outfit to be mixing it with the big boys.
That isn’t a slight on Moyes who had a fantastic and well respected body of work at Everton. However, since his coaching nadir as Manchester United manager, he has often been viewed as nothing more than a firefighter. Perhaps it was a brief that Moyes was happy to take as he returned to West Hame for the second time as back then the notion of Europa League football seemed a mile away.
However, as much credit as Moyes deserved this season, he owes a debt to someone to one of his former players who is at the club on a temporary basis. That man is none other than Jesse Lingard and if there was an award for the loan signing of the season it would be winging its way to the England international.
West Ham capturing Lingard has subsequently seen a rocket strapped to the club and with the Manchester United loanee arriving the capital with a point to prove, you get the feeling a huge statement has now been made with the winger driving the club towards Europa League football.
Of course it would be unfair to laud Lingard as the sole reason for such rapid movement up the table and any claims that this club is nothing more than a one-man team, must be considered rather unmerited.
Michail Antonio and Craig Dawson are another two players who have gone above the call of duty this season and, were it not for a long queue in front of them, England consideration would not be out of the question.
However, even with Gareth Southgate now able to call upon 26 names this summer, there will likely be little joy for the pair and although there will be a small tinge of disappointment, that is not to take anything away from their efforts during the campaign.
That same disappointment will surely not be felt by Lingard though and even if the current England boss could only select the usual 23 permitted players, the 28-year-old would surely have earnt his place in the squad
Although talk of international selection has the ability to turn heads at this point of the season, West Ham squad know that there is much work to be done if they are to secure Europa League football next season.
Defeat to Everton made the challenge for West Ham that bit harder and has brought The Toffees back into Europa League contention themselves. When you consider that the Toffees were top of the table after the first four weeks of the season, that they are hoping to be a wildcard contender for Europe shows how inconsist they have been since then.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are now three points behind West Ham with a game in hand while Liverpool will overtake them if they win their extra game. It is likely that West Ham will need to win two of their final three games if they are to hold off one of the three clubs below them and claim Europa League football and with Brighton, West Brom and Southampton their three remaining fixtures, they couldn’t have asked for a kinder run in.
Despite this, some critics will suggest that West Ham are only successful due to the failure of others in what has been a very strange season and, although there is a modicum of truth in all of that, their achievements deserve to be recognised.
Ultimately, the misfortunes suffered by the big six this season have allowed other clubs to gain ground on them and West Ham are unquestionably one of the teams who have taken advantage. David Moyes has led West Ham to a terrific season and Europa League football next season would be a fitting reward for their efforts.
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