During a torrid month for West Ham, only a few players could look back on September and say they’d had an impact in a positive way.
With goals against Watford and West Brom, as well as a call up to the England senior squad, Michail Antonio’s confidence will surely have grown – despite our heavy defeats to both the Hornets and the Baggies. But in an interview for Blowing Bubbles, the 26-year-old still believes the Hammers can match the finish of last season and has set himself a personal goal for this campaign.
‘The aim is always to keep on improving as a team,’ the former Nottingham Forest star said. ‘It’s a really strong league this year but we hope to finish around the same place if not higher. Personally, I want to beat my goal tally from last year and also I want to get onto the pitch for England.’ As for our new home, the midfielder, who started life playing for Tooting and Mitcham, has been impressed by the stadium as well as the noise made by the fans.
‘It’s a great feeling to have 60,000 fans backing us, it’s a great atmosphere to play in,’ said Antonio, who has scored 13 goals in 31 appearances for West Ham. ‘It’s also huge for the club to have a stadium like this, it’s really impressive, we’re ambitious and want to compete at the highest level and hopefully over the next few years we’ll be challenging the big boys at the top.’
As for the game he is looking forward to the most, the former Reading player continued: ‘West Ham v Tottenham Hotspur. That is going to be an amazing day with a great atmosphere and fans are going to be all over it. Also it is going to be a great game as both teams will want and think they can win it – it will be end-to-end stuff.’ During this game, the Wandsworth-born winger will also be squaring up against a player he considers the toughest he has ever played against.
‘I remember playing against Kyle Walker when I was younger and at Reading, he was really quick and really strong,’ he said. No interview with Antonio would be complete without asking him about being the first ever player to score a Premier League goal in the London Stadium. ‘It was a great feeling and something I will be able to tell my kids. No one can take that from me and I am now in the history books, it is a great feeling.
Another player to have etched his name in the West Ham history books this season was Cheikhou Kouyate after being the first player to score a competitive goal in the London Stadium. In his second interview for Blowing Bubbles, the 26-year-old didn’t want to set a target for the team this season. ‘We just have to take one game at a time and wait and see,’ the Senegalese international said. ‘It is important for us to work hard and play as a team and then who knows what can happen.’
The former Anderlecht star agreed with Antonio that he cannot wait for the derby against Spurs, describing these games as ‘special’. As for the toughest team we played against last season, he continued: ‘Leicester were a very difficult team to play against last season because they played together very well and they were strong. They were amazing last year and it was not normal to see a team like this win the league.’ B