Pub Talk: ‘I’ll take anything next season except a relegation battle…’

Looking back to August, what were your expectations for this season? 

Meirion Williams: I was hoping for a top half finish and a domestic cup win. What I wasn’t expecting was a relegation battle. So with those expectations, I guess you could call the season a bit of a failure, but how can you after that fantastic evening in Prague? Although European glory is fantastic, I have to show my age by saying that the FA Cup still has a magical place in my heart and I would choose that over the third ranked European cup.

David Meagher: With West ham you never really know, but with the quality of our summer signings and Rice still on board, the poor Premier League form was unexpected. In the end it was a big success and with time Paqueta, Aguerd and Kehrer have looked excellent. The U18s double success was very exciting but most of all, to win a European trophy was fantastic. I would never be confident about cup competitions so actually going all the way was a massive bonus.

Geoff Hillyer: I did not think that we were likely to finish as high in the league as the previous two seasons, but like the others, I didn’t expect a relegation battle. I also didn’t really expect us to win a European competition either, though. Ultimately, we stayed up relatively comfortably and won a European trophy. And unlike Meirion, I’m not picky what the trophy is – sorry Meirion! 

When did you start to believe that we could win the Conference League?

MW: I have to admit that after our Europa League run last season, I thought we had a great chance as we were clearly one of the big names in the competition. I thought we could win it from the start as the draw always favoured our chances. It wasn’t easy though so winning it still ranks as a major achievement in my eyes.

DM: I thought we could have a good pop at it but you always worry about knockout tournaments – it just takes one off performance and it’s over. So, yes I thought we could go all the way but I was not so sure we actually would.

GH: Just because we were tagged as favourites, didn’t mean we were going to win it. Big teams don’t always win the competitions they might be expected to. I felt we would do well, but honestly, I only started to actually believe we might win the thing in the 97th minute in Prague. I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before the opposition scored. 

What will be your lasting memories of our Conference League campaign, and the Final?

MW: There were home games like the previous season where I felt the European effect at the London Stadium. In fact it was often quite muted. Those who travelled away had the better time this year. Although I had enough points to get a final ticket, circumstances meant I couldn’t apply and I have to admit I was envious of those who attended.

DM: The campaign was great fun and I love those Thursday nights under the lights and staying at the Moxy hotel, sharing pints with both home and away fans. Despite a lot of juggling I couldn’t get tickets for Prague by any credible route but got to watch the game in Killaloe in a marquee with Hammers fans from around the South West of Ireland. It was so unbelievably tense but so much fun and ultimate joy. 

GH: The early group games were a bit ‘meh’. The knockouts were far more interesting viewing, and for me, there are a few standouts: Declan Rice’s goalscoring run against Gent, and Bowen’s 90th-minute winner in the final, obviously stand out. But can I be slightly controversial and say that Pablo’s last minute winner against AZ in the second leg brought a tear to my eye? I was so pleased for him. I was also extremely happy for David Moyes, who has got his hands on a trophy at last. 

What were your other highlights of the season? 

MW: It was worrying times throughout our league season but the win at home against Manchester United on my birthday weekend was pretty good. However the stand out one for me has to be our last away game in the league at Leicester. Yes we lost that one but I felt it was the best atmosphere I had felt all season. Standing in that away end it was electric and we seemed to sing for the full ninety minutes. It was magical. 

DM: The comeback against Arsenal was brilliant but watching the U18 cup final was the biggest highlight – a lot of talent in that side and so uplifting to know we are still producing talented players through our academy.

GH: It was tough in the Premier League, wasn’t it? I agree that the Man Utd win was as decent as it was perhaps unexpected – ultimately, that’s the game that kept us clear of relegation. Coming back from 2-0 down against Arsenal made me yell out loud on a packed train. My personal highlight though, aside from the U18 cup win, was watching the 4-0 at Bournemouth whilst observing that Tottenham were conceding goals for fun at Newcastle. That was a truly magnificent afternoon. 

What would you consider a successful transfer window this summer?

MW: Sounds stupid but to keep Declan would be a massive move, but of course he’ll go. I just hope we use the money wisely. I’m old enough to remember what we had to replace Rio all those years ago when we picked up Rigobert Song and Titi Camara. I just hope we strengthen the squad and keep those that were heroes during our last campaign.

DM: We still need a striker, although I am hoping Scamacca comes good in the end. We need to keep Bowen. We probably need two new full backs. Downes and Potts look very good prospects but we need a powerhouse to replace Dec. 

GH: If Rice goes, and I appreciate this is likely, clearly that will be a major area for improvement. I think we just need strength in depth, really. A striker, too. I’m not sure about Scamacca, but we’ll see. Bowen must stay. You could identify a number of areas that could benefit from investment. 

What are your hopes for next season – and also longer term for West Ham?

MW: New ownership would be good. I have never been a fan of our current ownership but they have given us European football three years running. However Sullivan just had to take the shine off the European victory with his comments immediately after the game regarding Declan. As for the season itself, a top ten finish and a FA cup win please.

DM: I hope we are allowed to have home fans for the Europa league which may be in jeopardy after the incident in Prague. Otherwise, you’ve got to hope for a top six finish and a good European run. In my opinion the cups are a lottery.

GH: I don’t want a relegation battle next season, and I don’t anticipate qualifying for Europe for a fourth season running. That’s fine – I’ll take a season of consolidation. I just want us to be competitive in every competition that we go in for. I would love for us to win a domestic cup, and who knows, now we’ve proved we can do it abroad, why can’t we do it here? 

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