Pub Talk: ‘Controversially, I think we’ll do well to maintain where we have been for the last couple of seasons’

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights

What would you consider a successful season for West Ham this campaign? 

Meirion Williams: Having a striker that scores 20-plus goals would be my idea of a successful season. If we have that sort of player, I think we can really have a great season. That sort of delivery will really boost our campaign. I would love to see, finally, us win a domestic cup and also finish in one of those European league places. As for the Europa Conference, my concern would be it will impact on my domestic cup and league aspirations.

Geoff Hillyer: Controversially, I think we will do extremely well to maintain where we have been for the last couple of seasons. Other teams have strengthened and I think the signs at the end of last season, when the team was exhausted, are worrying. As Meirion says, a striker is essential. I would take progress in the cups (including European) and a top half finish, seriously.

Marcus Johns: As Meirion said strong, future-proof acquisitions for our squad will be a huge success on previous years, though, like Geoff, I think it may be a challenge this year to maintain recent league positions whilst bedding new players in. Top 10 and a run in either domestic cup, or Europa Conference, but being in a stronger overall position squad wise will be a big step forward for us.

Lucy Farrell: Progress is generally the mark of success, but I’m with Geoff here – maintaining what we’ve done in the last couple of years would still be a successful season to me. Fair enough, we’ll take a step down from the Europa League to the Europa Conference this season, but if we can get another good run and not affect our league position, I’ll be happy.  

What are your hopes and fears about our Europa Conference campaign? 

MW: Looking at the teams involved, I think it could be a great competition. My worry is that if we don’t significantly improve the squad, we may be in a similar position to last time, where we sacrificed the league for European glory. I think we can do well in the Europa Conference but it’s domestic football for me every day.

GH: Obviously it’s great to have made the European cut again. Some decent teams in there, provided we get through qualification. Could be a really good opportunity to get deep into another European competition. But can our squad handle multiple demands? I’m not so sure.

MJ : On one hand, having gone so far in the Europa League last year, we could well be considered amongst the favourites for the cup. But when you look at the likes of Roma winning it last year, it won’t be straightforward. Plus, teams will be more aware of us now. Quarters or better will be a success – but as mentioned, only if we’re prepared to utilise the full squad.

LF: I really hope we can make a good impression of ourselves, just like we did in Europe last time around. It was a real boost for the whole club to keep progressing in the competition, gaining confidence and probably a few fans too. Of course there are fears around domestic football standards slipping, but I’m also worried about the potential disappointment if we get knocked out early.

What have you made of our transfer window so far?

MW: I don’t think it’s really started yet as there have been more outgoings than incomings. It seems that as usual we are linked with loads of players but no real desire to buy. As for the preoccupation with Lingard, I think we should have moved on long ago. It should be an honour to be linked with our club, that was clearly not the case with that player.

GH: There has been a lot of knicker-wetting online about our transfer activity. I trust the manager and will reserve judgement for now – though I have to say that one of the smartest moves might well be getting Mark Warburton’s signature. He’s class.

MJ : It’s still early days, but the signs are promising. Areola has been bought at a bargain price, and Aguerd comes highly-rated, and will complement Zouma well. Downes looks tenacious, and will be a good asset to the squad. What’s key will be what happens next. Broja could be a great long-term answer, but I still think we need a left back.

LW: I’m pretty okay about it so far, but I rarely panic about transfer windows anyway. I’ve learnt in the last few years to not listen to too many rumours and to wait until the first few games of the season have passed to judge how the window went. I’m pleased with what we’ve done so far and like Marcus, very pleased to have secured Areola’s signature. 

Which months are you afraid of judging by our fixtures, and which are you looking forward to?

MW: It has to be all those fixtures before the World Cup. We need to be in a good position and with the Europa Conference fixtures adding to a congested start, I worry that we won’t be up and running. It’s not easy when your first few fixtures include Man City, Brighton, Chelsea and Tottenham. 

GH: We have to play everyone twice so I don’t really get hung up on this sort of thing. That said, I think there are some very tricky games to open the season – the first two in particular look very tough, against the champions and in Nottingham Forest, a team whose stadium will be bouncing for the return of Premier League football.

MJ : To be honest, the first month. Some tough games in the mix early on, and momentum is so key to the success of the rest of the season. The season being split into two could help us there, and allow a number of our players a chance to reset without being tired out by the World Cup.

LF: I agree with the consensus here, that August looks tough. We could conceivably be into the fourth game before we pick up points and momentum is everything in football. I suppose it depends how our Conference League progresses and fixtures change, but I always look at my birthday fixtures and at the minute we play Chelsea and Spurs around that time, so that could be good.

Who will win the title and who are your three to go down?

MW: Early days yet but for the title anyone but Liverpool for me. If they win it, we will never hear the last of it. City are the ones to catch but Chelsea will give them a run for the title this season. As for relegation Bournemouth, Leeds and Fulham would be my contenders.

GH: It’s very difficult to see past the usual suspects but I will stick my neck out there and say that there might be a third challenger for the title this season – Chelsea look decent. Relegation? The promoted teams will find it tough, but I’ll again go rogue and say someone like Southampton, who have looked a bit ropey for a while. Maybe them, Fulham and perhaps someone like Brentford. Controversial huh?

MJ : I can’t see anyone but City winning it. They’ve strengthened, you could argue Liverpool losing Mane makes them weaker. For the drop, it’ll be tough to look beyond Forest despite Cooper being a great manager. Agree, I think Southampton could struggle and Fulham always seem content to yo-yo.

LF: Unlike Meirion, I’d like to see Liverpool winning it. I’ve loved watching them for the last few seasons and I think they deserve their day out. I agree though that Chelsea could put up a good fight and City, obviously. I can see Bournemouth and Leeds struggling, and probably Fulham too.

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