‘European nights under the lights are back and now we can’t wait for more’

Everything continues to be incredibly positive on and off the pitch for West Ham at the moment – when was the last time you could have said that in recent memory? The highlight for me from September was being at the London Stadium for our game against Rapid Vienna, and I thought it was a great evening for the fans.

I thought it was a great atmosphere under the lights, and it was great to see 50,000 supporters in the ground on a wet Thursday night, especially when these games are on the TV. It was such a good introduction to European football and I’m sure all the West Ham fans are now thirsty for more.

I’ve felt both our performances in the Europa League have been good but more importantly, both games provided good chances to rotate the squad whilst still getting what we wanted – wins! I think with our League Cup game at United too, everyone in the squad has had game time and with two wins out of two and two clean sheets – we are sitting pretty at the top of this group.

I’m sure David Moyes will be chuffed with how it’s gone so far, particularly as, by his own admission, he has taken a chance by rotating the squad. Looking at how we have started in Europe, I feel like one more win should get us into the next round.

But we really want to win our group and I believe this fate is now firmly in our hands. If we win our remaining two home games, then I think that’ll see us over the line. In the Premier League, we do still need to take it one game at a time, and it just shows you how far we’ve come that we were disappointed not to have got a result against Manchester United.

Yes, we always seem to give United a good game and raise our level for it but two or three years ago, we would have just accepted a 2-1 defeat before a ball was struck and moved on. I don’t think we will be the only side to get beaten by Man United but it was just unfortunate that Nobes missed the penalty at the end of the game.

One thing that continues to impress me about this current West Ham side is their belief. We went behind at Newcastle and came back and won emphatically, and we did the same at Leeds.

They have a belief that even if they go behind, they can get back level and even go on and win games. This kind of confidence comes about with results so it does take time, but now our belief is so great that even if we don’t play well, we can dig in and get a result.

The players on the pitch must feel like they can make a mistake and there is another player who can help get them out of the mire. It was the same for us during that Boys of 86 season, you just looked around you on the pitch and you knew what everyone could do, and you had confidence in each and every one of them.

And now we’ve brought in players like Niko Vlasic and Kurt Zouma who have added quality to our squad.
Zouma has slotted in really well and I like what I’ve seen of Vlasic so far. I think he will be a steady player for us once he gets more game time and settles into the swing of things a bit more. There’s just something about him. There’s been quite a bit made recently of Soucek and whether or not he needs to have a rest, but I don’t think him having a rest is the answer.

When you rest players, they have to get back up to speed again and that can take a while. If you have a rest for two or three games, it will take you a while to reach the same heights again and then when you come back in, you might make a couple of mistakes and that sets you back further.

You saw from the Europa League game the other night that a few first team regulars came off and some came on. They all got minutes – just not the full 90. That’s probably going to be the way to help Soucek right now – manage his minutes, not give him a complete rest.

One player who did play the whole 90 against Vienna was Declan Rice. Two goals in two Europa League games – What a start to the season he’s had! Perhaps one reason why Soucek hasn’t been as influential so far this season has been because Rice has been the one making the forward runs.

I think this transformation is mostly down to him. We all know he has it in him and now he is showing what he can do. I think having the captain’s armband is amazing for him. It’s like whenever he puts the armband on, he puffs his chest out and leads by example with his performances. He has been outstanding – long may this continue!

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