West Ham must match David Moyes ambition to ensure upwardly mobile Hammers come again after Euro heartbreak

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·5-min read
West Ham must match David Moyes ambition to ensure upwardly mobile Hammers come again after Euro heartbreak
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As David Moyes sat in the same press conference room in the bowels of Deutsch Bank Park where, just 24 hours earlier, he had spoken hopefully of it finally being his turn to taste silverware after 24 trophyless years in management, you sensed a mixture of pride, anger and embarrassment.

Pride, at the historic journey his West Ham team have been on in reaching a first major European semi-final in 46 years, just two after battling to stave off relegation.

Anger, at what he felt was the Frankfurt’s bench’s over-zealous appeals for Aaron Cresswell to be sent off in the game’s defining moment just 19 minutes in, though he had few complaints about the decision itself.

And embarrassment, having himself been shown a red card for his moment of ball-boy madness, an incident for which he apologised but also tried sheepishly to make light of.

Above any of that though, it was disappointment, the cold light of day not even required to realise what a missed opportunity this had been, against an Eintracht Frankfurt side who capitalised on West Ham’s state of shock after Cresswell’s departure, doubling their aggregate lead through Rafael Borre just seven minutes later, but then did little else with their man advantage, showing none of the invention and verve that had seen them seize control of the tie at the London Stadium last week.

“We’ve played teams as good, if not better, than Eintracht Frankfurt,” Moyes said afterwards. Declan Rice agreed: “They’re a good side, but no way they’re better than Sevilla or Lyon.”

On neither man’s part was this sour grapes - it was the truth. For all their heroics in knocking out Barcelona, Frankfurt are currently 11th in the Bundesliga and despite the benefit of one of the most passionate supports anywhere in Europe, have not tended to be a particularly troubling proposition here: last night was only their second victory on home soil in any competition since Christmas.

It was a shame to see West Ham’s wonderful journey end here and a shame, too, that players and fans did not get chance to share a moment of appreciation after Frankfurt supporters stormed the pitch at full-time, a large number having to be repelled from taunting the away end by riot police.

But there is hope for them in the German side’s story. A run to this same stage in 2019 meant they went into this tie with a greater recent European pedigree than the Hammers, but prior to that had not reached a major semi-final since winning the UEFA Cup in 1980 and have not played a single match in the continent’s premier competition since losing the famous 1960 European Cup final 7-3 to Real Madrid.

Three years ago, when they fell in the Europa League last four to Chelsea, it seemed a moment had passed, yet they are already back and now going further, to Seville to face Rangers a fortnight from now.

For West Ham, the dream of winning there and qualifying for the Champions League in the process is dead, and it will be the three remaining Premier League games that determine their immediate European future.

Understandably dejected and exhausted, they must rally to - at the very least - secure seventh and a Europa Conference League berth, making sure they are poised to take advantage of any further Manchester United slips in the race for sixth and an instant return to this competition.

Beyond that, and as far as Moyes’ goal of turning the club into regulars at this level goes, it is the summer that will be vital.

The Scot has long-since earned the right to be backed in the transfer market having performed near-miracles with the resources at his disposal: this is a squad full of quality and character but it has been stretched to its limits, not only over the course of this run but over the past two seasons and particularly since reinforcement was not forthcoming in January.

Spending does not need to be overly lavish - as shown by the shrewd recruitment of the likes Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek, to name just two - but it must both bolster numerically and raise the level of Moyes’ group, with statement additions in the mould of that of Kurt Zouma last summer that reflect the growing stature of this club.

They must also keep Declan Rice, something the club remains confident of doing, for all a Champions League offering would have made things more straightforward.

Moyes has been open about his ambition, talking up his vision for the future and the work needed to get there even in the midst of great success this term, and the club’s owners must now show the same intent.

The elephant in the room is the question of how much longer David Sullivan and David Gold will be at the helm, having included a full takeover option in the deal that saw Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky buy a 27 per cent stake last year.

Uncertainty over future ownership must not be allowed to deny Moyes, his players and the club at large the chance to seize this moment and build on the momentum created by their exploits in first qualifying for Europe and then taking it by storm.

Last night certainly was an opportunity missed - but it does not have to be the only one.

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