European glory for the Hammers!
When the UEFA Europa Conference League first came into existence two years ago, it was widely ridiculed by the British press as a ‘Mickey Mouse tournament’.
Now though, it’s provided West Ham United with their greatest night for generations.
On Wednesday night, the Hammers beat Fiorentina 2-1 in the final in Prague, with Saïd Benrahma converting a penalty, only for the Italian side to equalise shortly after.
However, in the final minute of normal time, Lucas Paquetá through-ball played in Jarrod Bowen and he slotted home the winner, sparking claret and blue limbs all around, both in the Czech capital and back home in East London.
So, Declan Rice got his hands of the Irons’ first major trophy since the FA Cup in 1980 and first European silverware since the Cup Winners’ Cup of 1965.
Having barely cobbling together 40 points in the Premier League, the Hammers ended up 14th, the lowest any side has ever finished whilst simultaneously winning a major UEFA competition.
Nevertheless, this is the club’s best campaign for decades, as they’ve retained their Premier League status, qualified for next season’s Europa League group stages, and ended their 43-year wait for silverware.
David Moyes joins Ron Greenwood and John Lyall as the only managers to deliver a trophy.
Of course, finishing 16 points worse-off in the league is far from ideal, but it matters not one bit, as the Hammers will compete in Europe for a third successive season for the first time ever.
West Ham’s pre-season kicks off in Perth on 15 July, with supporters and players alike set to continue partying until then and perhaps beyond.
Will West Ham enjoy more successive in a post-Rice era?
Don’t want to spoil the party West Ham fans, but the big news on Thursday morning was chairman David Sullivan confirmed that Declan Rice will leave this summer, saying: “we promised him he could go. He set his heart on going.”
Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and potentially others are set for a bidding war over the England international midfielder who’s out of contract next summer, but will still command a fee of around £100 million.
So, how on earth do West Ham go about replacing Rice, even if they’ll have a war chest of cash with which to do it?
The Hammers seem hopeful of signing Harvey Barnes from Leicester, so could be set to raid the three relegated clubs.
Southampton’s Roméo Lavia might be the ideal Rice replacement although, given that Manchester City have a buy-back option for the Belgian teenager, it’s unclear how feasible that is.
Wednesday’s victory in Prague, on top of everything else, makes West Ham a more attractive destination, as they can offer European football, something clubs they’ll be competing in the transfer market with cannot.