‘The road ahead for West Ham is still long and we can’t let a good start go to waste’

It was great to see the marathon return to the streets of London at the start of this month. And while West Ham may have had a great start to the season, our season is very much a marathon, not a sprint.

I felt before our game against Brentford that it would be a tough game given their start to the season too but I was confident if we played at our best, we’d win. To lose the game so late was doubly disappointing. It’s no good getting off to a good start and not maintaining it throughout the course of the long season. We have got to keep being consistent.

It was also a shame last month that we lost to Manchester United at home with such a late winning goal – and of course, Mark Noble’s penalty miss. I don’t think Moyes should have done what he did. Rice had the ball in his arms, he was all geared up to take it.

He had been involved in the game and I don’t think he would’ve missed with the way he is playing at the moment and the confidence he has got. I can see the logic behind why Moyes did it but to bring someone off the bench when they were cold, just doesn’t seem right.

Obviously this is all with hindsight but there has been a recent example of this not working – England in the Euros final. Southgate made the same decision and it went all wrong. I just found it all very strange.

For me, these penalties should have been taken by those involved in the game, and more likely focused on what they need to do rather than sending people off the bench cold. What made the United result even more disappointing is that they had lost against Young Boys before playing us, then lost at home against Villa and drew against Everton.

They do seem to have come unstuck and now are out of the League Cup, which in all honesty was probably their best chance to get silverware this season. But you can’t take away what a positive start to the season it has been for West Ham – especially in the results away at United and Leeds.

And in our Rapid Vienna game, all the chances seemed to be for West Ham. We were taking the game to them and for us to be doing that – in Europe – against good European sides, is brilliant to see. I thought the first game, in particular, would be tough but we were great. Now we need to just take it one game at a time.

If we progress out of the group, there will be a lot of good Europa League sides left plus we have those from the Champions League so it will be tough to go all the way. I know we haven’t been playing our full strength side in Europe but it seems to be the way Premier League clubs approach the group stages of this competition.

They don’t seem to put out their best sides until deep into the tournament but most Premier League sides have a second XI capable of winning against these European sides, as West Ham have demonstrated. It has been an interesting approach from Moyes though given this is our first try at this competition. Yes, we had a few attempts to qualify for the group stages in recent memory but this is the real deal.

We’re playing good sides who all know how to win, and if we are going to go far in this competition we will need a bit of luck with the draw if we get out of our group. In particular, I think we will do better if we are away in the first leg.

When we played Dinamo Tbilisi in 1981 at home in the Cup Winners’ Cup, they were such a good side and destroyed us. We couldn’t watch them, and we didn’t know anything about them so we just played our normal game which was attack and attack.

They just picked us off and counter attacked. But when we went there, we knew what to expect and changed how we played and won 1-0. It was satisfying to get that performance and win from that tie. Had we played away from home first, we would’ve been more cautious and defensive, and we’d have had a chance to suss them out. The way West Ham are playing at the moment – if we are on song, we are tough to play against.

We have got a very good side – a side that people are now respecting in the Premier League and now in Europe. Go back two or three years and everyone would have fancied their chances against us. We never put the fear of God into anyone but now people are worried.

It’s a completely different story, other teams have to be on their best form to get something out of their game from us. I can see us going away to other sides and I’m just thinking we will get a result whereas a few years ago, there are some places you’d have said we’d be lucky to get a draw from.

For me, it was last season that was the first time where we started to see that. Moyes has got the players he wants and he has bought them, as opposed to Sullivan giving him players and I think it shows.

Moyes has changed the side from the one he took over when Pellegrini was sacked, and I think it’s a great time to be a West Ham fan. You’ve suffered over the years so it’s really good to see what’s happening now.

People can now be proud to be a West Ham fan and not feel embarrassed that we are in another relegation battle. We’re battling at the right end of the table. The results we’ve been able to get in Europe will give the squad such a huge confidence boost.

There’s no better feeling going into a weekend game having gone away in Europe in midweek and got a result. I think if we win the group, I do believe we can cause an upset in the knockout stages. The way we play with a high tempo and being attack-minded.

I feel that a lot of sides have become very defensive in Europe but as long as we can break them down and get results at home, I think we are more than capable of getting draws or wins away from home. Even if we do go behind, I also think we’re a side now that can pull together and get through it.

If and when we do face the bigger boys, they will give us respect – especially when they are coming to the London Stadium.

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