Cheik relishing Canaries challenge

Cheikhou Kouyate is relishing his return to matchday action
Having played his first full game against Birkirkara last week, Cheikhou Kouyate is relishing his return to action on English soil as the Hammers travel to play Norwich City tonight. 

The Senegalese had an impressive debut season in Claret and Blue, however the combative midfielder insisted he believes the best is yet to come: “I’m not giving myself any targets or number of goals I’d like to score – that’s for Diafra Sakho! But, I’m here to work hard and carry on where I left off last season. I think I did well in my first season at West Ham but I know I can do better and I want to show that.      

“I’m feeling good at the moment. Over the summer it was nice to go back to Senegal and see my family, I celebrated Ramadan with them which was very nice. Now I am ready to start the season. 

“The game against Birkirkara was very hard. I played 120 minutes in my first game of the season, in hot conditions, so it was a difficult test but this is football and I think it helped me a lot. It was very, very good preparation for the start of the Premier League season.”

With the Hammers competing in the early rounds of the UEFA Europa League Qualifying Rounds, Kouyate and his teammates have had a hectic schedule of a match almost every three days. 

However, the 25-year-old continued to say that this was the best way to rediscover match sharpness, as well as an ideal way of embedding new signings such as Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna.   

“Overall I’m feeling good. Normally you have a game every week or ten days but now we play matches the whole time, every three or so days. It’s a good way of getting back to my best. 

“The new signings have impressed me a lot. Dimi (Dimitri Payet), Obi (Angelo Ogbonna) and Mani (Manuel Lanzini) have all done well so far. They are very good players. I remember watching Dimi play for Marseille and the French national team, he is a very, very good player. 

“Obi came here from Juventus, he’s a nice defender in the way that he plays the game. Manuel also has very nice technique and quick feet, I am looking forward to them playing for us.”

Following the tonight’s journey to East Anglia, it’s another quick turnaround for the Irons as they host Romanian side Astra Giurgiu in the third round of the Europa League qualifying stages on Thursday 30 July. 

Having enjoyed his experience of European football during his time at Anderlecht, Kouyate wants to see the Hammers compete for European honours on a regular basis. 

“It’s very important for West Ham that we have European football. Everyone wants to play in the best competitions, this is one of them. It’s a nice way as we go into the new Stadium, hopefully we can have European football for a number of years. 

“Yes, I always enjoyed playing in the Europa League with Anderlecht. It was a good experience, also the Champions League as well. I enjoy it a lot. 

“The teams you play in the Europa League are very different to English teams. The style, the way they play football. It’s a different type of experience. Every player enjoys it, we have a good squad, I think we are ready.”