‘Kral never complained despite the lack of gametime’

There were high hopes for the Czech midfielder but he struggled to adapt and Moyes lost faith after cup clash

When Alex Kral arrived from Spartak Moscow at the end of last summer’s transfer window, it was a deal that was met with real enthusiasm by many Hammers fans.  The Czech international, now 24, had already managed to amass a good number of caps for his country, and yet his stint in east London was a real disaster for all parties.

Kral registered just a single minute of Premier League football during his loan spell, and played just six games in all competitions during his time at the club. 

A spell on the side-lines following a positive COVID-19 result disrupted Kral’s momentum, postponing his shot at some first team football, but a calamitous display against Kidderminster in the FA Cup sealed his fate with the club, and he never donned the claret and blue following his half time substitution. 

Kral certainly showed glimpses of talent at the club during his limited game time. His performance in the Carabao Cup victory against Man United at Old Trafford was certainly impressive — he broke up the play and contained United’s attacking threat reasonably well throughout. He was persistent and dogged when trying to regain possession and had a real physical presence which we sometimes lack in the heart of our midfield.

While he needed to work on his ball retention and passing abilities, he was never able to pick up any real form and press on in order to challenge for a place in the first team. Even as the season dragged on and fatigue crept into the squad, Kral failed to convince Moyes to give him an opportunity, and the manager favoured using Mark Noble to see games through.

Intensity

For Kral, the increased level of intensity in training and games came as a shock. Back in February, David Moyes stated: ‘Alex is still getting used to the speed and the whole situation but I think we’ve said many times how long it can take players to get used to Premier League football and what we need. Alex is just taking a little bit of time but hopefully he’ll get some football [in the] second half of the season.’ 

This opportunity, of course, never materialised, and Moyes clearly never felt that Kral was ready to make the step up and play in our Premier League and Europa League campaigns.

In a recent interview, Kral has opened about his time at the club: ‘I didn’t get a clear answer from the coach. Mentally, the time in London was difficult because I didn’t get a chance to show myself. 

‘Despite this, I always behaved professionally and never caused a bad mood. Only in the car after training could I let my emotions out.’

As we’re seeing once again this season, David Moyes is very reluctant to offer immediate opportunities to new signings, instead choosing to ease them into the first team slowly. He has his preferred XI and usually only makes changes if he’s forced into it. This loyalty is admirable to a degree, but it also gives new signings very few chances to make their mark and impress during games.

Of course, Moyes knows what he needs from his players, but sometimes, they just need some faith in their abilities and a chance to prove themselves at the highest level.

Commitment

Kral has played every game in the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal so far this season for Schalke, illustrating his commitment and ability to prove himself at the highest level.

In the end, Kral was a model professional during his time in east London. His parting message shows his class, despite a disappointing season: ‘It was an honour for me to wear this jersey. Big thanks to all West Ham fans for your support and love. I wish you the best.’

Kral is a model professional, one who never complained during his time with the Hammers, despite his undoubted frustrations at the lack of gametime. I think most fans sincerely wish him the best of luck with the rest of his career. In the end, £17 million was just too steep a price for the club to pay for a player who was unable to make a real mark.

While it’s disappointing that Kral’s time at the club didn’t work out, the signing of Flynn Downes from Swansea, and the return of Conor Coventry from his loan spell at MK Dons, offers hope for the next generation of our midfield.

Let’s hope that they are both given a chance to prove themselves to the manager and the fans over the course of this season.

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