Right from the outset of their first-ever UEFA Europa League group-stage game, West Ham United’s intentions were clear.
Pressing high, passing quickly, dominating possession and not allowing Dinamo Zagreb a moment to get settled, the Hammers’ corner count was as high as six with just 25 minutes on the clock.
The occasion might have been a grand one at Maksimir Stadium, but Ryan Fredericks – who made his first start of 2021/22 in the 2-0 victory – felt that that just brought out the best in himself and his teammates.
“We’re all buzzing with that,” the right-back told West Ham TV. “It was a lot of people’s first times playing in the Europa League, and it was a perfect start for us, to be honest.
“We were all buzzing for it, excited and looking forward to it all day. To come out and give that for the fans who have travelled was great.
“We were raring to go. The gaffer’s made it clear that we’re not just coming here to take part. We’ve got a strong enough squad to compete with whoever we play against and we think we’ve got a good chance in the competition.
“The fans were amazing. To come all the way here on a so-called ‘school night’… they were singing, chanting for 90 minutes, and I’m glad we could just give them something to sing about. I hope they have a safe journey home and I’m glad they can go home happy.”
West Ham manager David Moyes had made five changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Croatia, having suggested in his pre-match press conference that there will be a need to balance the demands of the Irons’ busy fixture programme with players’ capacities to feature in as many as six games in 20 days across three competitions.
Fredericks believes Thursday demonstrated that, whichever players are selected in Claret and Blue, this West Ham squad possess the ammunition to rise to that challenge.
He explained: “I think we’re pretty relentless as a team and no matter who we play against, we’re going to cause problems with the way we play.
“We don’t change how we play for anyone. This is our style and we’re very good at it. When players come in, we can still keep the same identity, and I think we showed that.”
Thursday also marked the 150th appearance for West Ham in all competitions for Declan Rice, the Hammers’ vice-captain marking it with an outstanding solo goal and individual performance.
Dec was in a different gear. The tougher the game, the better he plays
“Dec was in a different gear,” Fredericks, his close friend, noted. “The tougher the game, the better he plays.
“I was a bit raging with him because we had a little celebration planned if either of us scored, and he bottled it, so I wasn’t too happy with that!
“He was class again and that’s what everyone expects from him – credit to him.”
Attentions quickly turn to Sunday afternoon’s Premier League fixture at home to Manchester United, with Fredericks full of confidence against the league leaders following such an excellent result in Zagreb.
He concluded: “I don’t think we turn up anywhere as massive underdogs.
“Whoever we play, we’re quietly confident as a group. We think, on our day, we’re good enough to beat anyone.”