From the Terraces

Graeme Howlett, of, looks ahead to tonight's game

Graeme Howlett, of, looks ahead to Thursday's game against FC Lusitans...

That West Ham United have been able to completely sell out the Boleyn Ground for Thursday evening's Europa League tie against Andorran minnows FC Lusitans is a clear indication of the fans' desire to make the most of the limited time remaining at our famous old ground. Well, that and the opportunity to see our new manager Slaven Bilic for the first time since he was appointed, of course! 
Slav will be at the ground, we understand, although he has delegated management duties to Academy chief Terry Westley - who has been working with the squad at their Irish training camp - for the night.

In some ways the club have been extraordinarily lucky that a wild-card entry into European competition has coincided with the Irons' final season in Upton Park. Nonetheless, the Board should be congratulated for delivering a sensible pricing structure which ensures not only that the ground is full, but that entry is genuinely affordable for all.

Although a number of first team players only returned to training this week, the Hammers will still be fielding a reasonably strong side; certainly one that should be of sufficient quality to see off the challenge of a team who have been routinely thumped in the first qualifying round in each of their previous four Europa League campaigns.

Should West Ham manage to overcome the challenge of Lusitans as expected (although as Hammers we know NEVER to take anything for granted!) there will be little chance for Bilic's boys to rest on their laurels, as the second round commences just seven days after the first round, second leg in Andorra. 

We already know that either Birkirkara of Malta or Armenia's Ulisses await, but continued progress in the competition will ensure games come thick and fast once the Premier League campaign - which kicks off the weekend of 8/9 August - begins.

Should West Ham make safe passage through the second qualifying round, they will play the second leg of the third qualifying round just 72 hours before the Premier League season-opener at Arsenal. And the final Europa League play-off round is scheduled for 20 and 27 August - each three days ahead of two very important early-season top-flight clashes with Bournemouth (home) and Liverpool (away).

That means August alone could result in the Hammers playing no less than SEVEN fixtures in 24 days - so it's no surprise that David Sullivan and his recruitment team are looking to tie up as many deals as early as possible this summer, with view to a potentially lengthy and arduous European campaign to follow.

The early qualifying rounds of the competition have unfortunately arrived too soon for one or two of the club's most recent arrivals to be eligible. One who the Hammers could certainly do with is Slaven Bilic's latest acquisition, Dimitri Payet from Marseille.

At 28, the 15-times capped French winger should be at his peak and whilst some eyebrows were raised at the (undisclosed) eight-figure transfer fee (except that bit), West Ham should be acquiring a player who will prove to be worth every penny.

Payet's recent record is quite exceptional; it's already well-documented that he created 135 goalscoring opportunities last season, more apparently than any other player in the top European leagues. That should be music to the ears of Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, who were often bereft of service during the last campaign (when not being asked to provide it themselves).

Those 135 chances converted into 17 actual assists in Ligue 1 in 2014/15, which were complemented by seven goals - a decent return for a player charged with creating, rather than completing goalscoring opportunities.

Payet followed goalkeeper Darren Randolph, midfielder Pedro Obiang and full-back Stephen Hendrie into the club already this summer. And according to's Boleyn Insider, two further new signings are set to arrive imminently. It’s going to be a busier summer than usual at the Boleyn...

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United