From the Terraces - Ollie Hirst

Fan blogger Ollie Hirst examines Monday's UEFA Europa League first and second qualifying round draws

Fan blogger Ollie Hirst examines Monday's UEFA Europa League first and second qualifying round draws...

West Ham's new European adventure will begin with a two legged tie against Andorran outfit FC Lusitans early next month, representing just the start of what is an exciting new era for the club.
Lusitans finished second in the Andorran Primera Divisio and have a strong Portuguese influence and history. They've played in the Europa League and the Champions League on four previous occasions, but have never been beyond the first qualifying round.
Although still paired with a minnow, the draw could certainly have been much tougher for the Hammers, which is a significant bonus. In the grand scheme of things, a relatively short trip to Andorra is far more pleasing than a longer journey to Macedonia, Bosnia or Azerbaijan - three of the other options from our draw group.
The only possible tie that would have kept us closer to home would have been Newtown AFC in Wales. But beyond keeping the players comfortable, it will certainly be a far more interesting fan experience to go and visit the picturesque setting of Andorra. It's also a country with one of the world's highest life expectancies.
Perhaps we can return home having learned their secret!
It's most definitely a tie that Slaven Bilic should be extremely confident of winning in his first two competitive games in charge. After the first qualifying round, the Hammers would then face either Birkirkara of Malta or Ulisses Yerevan from Armenia in the second, later in July.
In terms of both player comfort and fan experience, Birkirkara has to be preferred option for that one. It's a much shorter trip for the away leg and the Mediterranean sun would be an added bonus.
The third qualifying round will then take place in late July and early August.
Some people may be slightly concerned that West Ham's season is starting so early and it will therefore be a long year. But with a few hard training sessions under the players' belts, kicking off with a string of competitive matches might be just what the squad needs ahead of an important campaign in 2015/16.
It bodes well for making a good start when the Premier League kicks off in August and nurturing some all-important momentum. By that time, other clubs might not be as far along in terms of reaching their peak physical fitness, while the results in our pre-season will have meant an awful lot more and should have a positive impact on general confidence.
This is a very exciting time to be a West Ham fan. This season will obviously be the last at the Boleyn Ground, but bowing out under the leadership of a dynamic new manager and hopefully a stellar European campaign would be a fitting end.
It will be sad to leave so much history behind, but being able to move into the former Olympic Stadium next year is the stuff dreams are made of. It's a whole new platform that will help take the club to the next level.
Players who have recently committed their future with new contracts have all commented on what it means for them to be involved with the club at this time and further prospective new players will hopefully find our soon-to-be new home and great ambition to be just as appealing.
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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United