Whereas a year ago, the Hammers’ first ever group stage appearance in Uefa competition, in the Europa League, was novel and all part of the fun, the excitement for a second successive season in Europe seems wrapped up in the assumption that the club will go deep into the third-tier Europa Conference League and supply more famous knockout nights in the New Year.
Many bookmakers even have West Ham as the front runners to lift the trophy in Prague next June, though of course there is the potential for numerous spanners to drop into the works from the Europa League the other side of Christmas.
For 45 minutes last night, however, Moyes’ side were not playing like the favourites for anything and trailed 1-0 at the break after Andrei Cordea swept home a well-worked opener for FCSB on 34 minutes.
Moyes’ agitation was clear, not only before the break but also on the touchline after it as, having introduced Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and club-record signing Lucas Paqueta at the interval, his side continued to labour and did not look like threatening an equaliser until they were awarded a contentious penalty when Maxwel Cornet and Daniel Vlad collided in mid-air.
Bowen’s spot-kick lifted the home side out of what, in surreal circumstances, was perhaps an understandable malaise, however, and though all post-match media obligations were cancelled following the passing of Her Majesty the Queen, it is fair to assume that Moyes will have been encouraged by a second-half turnaround that saw further goals from Emerson Palmieri and Michail Antonio earn a 3-1 win.
From drifting towards an underwhelming start, the Hammers this morning find themselves in a position where victory over the group’s weakest side Silkeborg (fourth in the Danish top-flight, two points behind Viborg, who West Ham thrashed in qualifying) in Denmark next week will suddenly have them cruising towards the knockout stage.
Moyes’ enthusiasm for this competition has, for now, been tempered by the Thursday-Sunday grind it necessitates in the midst of an already congested fixture list which, it seems, may be about to get even more so.
How the Scot would love to have qualification secured before the final day of the group stage, sparing his stars the journey to Bucharest for a return fixture that is sandwiched between a Premier League trip to Manchester United and a London derby against Crystal Palace.
All being well, it could even be done earlier, before Silkeborg come to the London Stadium in a week of scheduling that has already had Moyes grumbling, given the Hammers are scheduled to play Bournemouth in the League on Monday night, despite having a Thursday fixture.
That is all premature, perhaps, and Moyes’ strong starting XI as well as stellar substitutes showed he is taking nothing for granted. But forward planning is an increasing part of the Irons boss’ remit and after a sluggish start in the Premier League, any opportunity to prioritise affairs on the home front further down the line could prove valuable in the extreme.