David Moyes

Moyes: Frankfurt, form and the Europa League semi-finals

David Moyes believes West Ham United’s growth this season – as a squad of players, as a supporter base, and as an overall Club – warrants the UEFA Europa League semi-final berth we inhabit.

The Hammers are set to take on the Club's first major continental semi-final in 46 years on Thursday evening, when we host Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg at London Stadium.

And having guided the Club to safety in his first season in charge, 2019/20; secured European qualification and a Club-record Premier League points total in 2020/21; and now reached the latter stages of continental competition, Moyes drew great pride in how the Club has come so far, so quickly.

But as the manager reiterated at his pre-match press conference, the best may yet still be to come. 


I've had a lot of games under my belt, but this one is right up there with so many others! 

This, at the moment, is the most important one. It's the next one.
 

I want a good performance first of all, and I need a good result from it if I can get it as well, but it’s a two-legged tie once more.

The quarter-final games were interesting, where our game was 1-1 each against Lyon [after the first leg] and Eintracht Frankfurt were at 1-1 against Barcelona. The only game which was open was Rangers' against Braga – Braga won 1-0 but Rangers went on to win and qualify. It seemed to be the second legs which were different.

That’s not to say that’ll happen in the semi-finals, which we saw last night [in Manchester City’s 4-3 UEFA Champions League win over Real Madrid]. The first game last night looked as if Man City were going to go well in front but the game tightened up again.

You never know in Europe. The games are tight and they have been so far, so we probably expect much the same on Thursday night.


David Moyes against Sevilla
 

I think in the main our home form this year's been pretty good. We've had some good results.

It's good to be nervous. It makes you realise the level of the game, but you want the players to play with confidence and do a lot of things naturally in the game – but I think nerves are really important for the players to understand the level we’re at.

It's a great game. We're hugely excited by it. The thrill of qualifying for Europe last year was great. If you'd have said to us in May last year “you’re going to be in the semi-finals of the Europa League, with the chance of getting to the final,” I think we’d have all said, “you're joking.”

We’re in a really good place and I think we’re worthy of it. Beating Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea at home shows that on our home patch, on our day, we can be a good match for just about any team.

 

When I first returned, I honestly thought if I could get it going, I'd get a team challenging around the top of the league. That’s what I planned.

I think for most of my career, I’ve been closer to that than the bottom, even though I’ve come back a couple of times to take over a team near the bottom, but I always felt if I could get a chance to get it done...

On that journey, you need to make sure your recruitment is good. We signed a couple of Czech boys on the journey who have been brilliant for us, and we took Jarrod Bowen from the Championship, who’s gone on to do great things. Sometimes you need bits of that for all those things to happen.

Is it by luck, by plan or design? I hope it’s a bit of all of them. Sometimes it doesn’t always go right when you’re a manager, and for the majority of managers it’s very difficult, but I always felt that if I could get it going here, I could get a team challenging. 

Now, we’re challenging. We challenged last year and we’re still challenging this year. The job to keep it going is the hardest bit. How do you maintain that and go again?

So often you hear the really top players, who have been fortunate enough to win trophies or league titles, turn around and say: “We’ve won that one, it’s gone now, and we need to think about winning the next one.” They don’t dwell.

We can't dwell on how well we did last year. We've got to try and do it again. Hopefully we can finish well this year and not be dwelling on that. We’ll need to move on, see how we can continue to build and keep growing West Ham.


Moyes, Jarrod Bowen and Declan Rice
 

You don't get longevity in football nowadays if you don't put the hard work and the hours in. 

What you hope is that, from somewhere, you get to Cup finals and you win a few trophies along the way.

I’ve still got a long way to go. I’ve got to win a two-legged semi-final and then I would need to, if I was good enough to do that, try to win a final – so from my point of view, there’s still a long way to go.

To bring West Ham from where it's been, to where we are today, is huge. People who know West Ham far better than I do will tell you that to get to the semi-final of a European competition and give ourselves a real chance of getting to a final is something really special. It’s not easy to do.

I think when the tournament started, people were asking me if I thought we were favourites in the tournament, and I said: “No, what a load of rubbish.” All the Champions League team were still to drop in.

We did a really good job in the group - the whole squad did a brilliant job winning the group - and then we've had two huge ties, which all the teams are going to have.

We're now in a semi-final. You would always like the second leg at home, but we’re at home in the first leg, so we have to deal with that, but I think we're in a good place and we have to try to challenge to get to the final.

 

I look back and I felt as if I always wanted to be competing against the elite managers, whether it be in the Premier League or in Europe.

But to be able to do that, you have to have a team capable of doing that. We’re really fortunate we’ve got a good team here. The team's given us a good chance. 

All managers need the players to come and build and get better. The players have got better from where you think we were two years ago.

Even our style, how we've played and their development, so many of the players have improved individually greatly. We brought in a couple of boys, but nearly all of the players who have been here have improved individually, they’ve all got better, or they wouldn't be playing in the top six of the Premier League or at this level of European football.

They're all seeing this as a great moment for them. For me personally, it’s a great moment to lead the team into the semi-final. The semi-final sounds good, but the final sounds even better.


Moyes and his celebrating players
 

I don't think we've really considered whether we’re favourites for this tie or whether we’re not. 

When we look at the opposition, it would’ve been very hard to say we would beat Sevilla because of their record – they were arguably the strongest team. Olympique Lyonnais became a difficult game against a good team. Eintracht Frankfurt are very much the same.

They've got a lot of similarities to us. They're very intense in their game and very high as far as running goes and they've got one or two individual players who can make a difference to their side itself.

We'll have an incredible atmosphere in Frankfurt. I’ve been there a few times to watch games over the years, so I know how difficult that'll be, but we have to use that and London Stadium to our advantage. We have to use every opportunity we can to try and win this game and be in front if we can get into the second game. 

Overall, I don't know if you'd necessarily put us as favourites, but we didn't think about being underdogs last time and we certainly wouldn’t think about being favourites this time if that were the case.

We want to try and be in the final, but we certainly won’t take any of it for granted. We’re going to have to work really hard and play very well to do so.

 

I think it's really special that two teams with a history – maybe not a recent history in Europe – are back together. I know some of the players from the 1976 semi-final were here the other day.

I would consider Eintracht Frankfurt a big name in German football, with incredible support.  I've been to a couple of games at Frankfurt before and they've always had a really big support.

We give them big respect. To beat Barcelona over two games was an incredible achievement, especially when they drew the first leg and you think it might be difficult going to the Nou Camp, but they did a great job and it shows Frankfurt's qualities. They've got quite a lot of similarities to us so it'll be an interesting game.

At West Ham, we've now got a really good stadium and a fantastic crowd, and I'm really hoping we can show exactly what we’ve got as well in that aspect.

 

When I was asking our former players about the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, they talked about the second leg at Boleyn Ground.

Mervyn Day said he walked out and one of the goalmouths was flooded! Nowadays, that wouldn’t be the case, and one of them said the Boleyn Ground was full three hours before kick-off and they could not get anywhere.

The biggest thing they said was that Sir Trevor Brooking made all the difference, scoring two goals that night and playing fantastic. It was good to speak to them and they were pleased to be here as well.


Moyes in Zagreb
 

If we look back, winning at Dinamo Zagreb was important. I know it was the first game, but that was probably the toughest away game in the group we had, and we went there and played really well. 

We took a lot of supporters out to Zagreb for our first game in Europe, and that gave us a lot of confidence.

At that time we made the choice to split the team a little bit and rest some players for games, and I think that working as well helped the morale and made sure everybody knew they would play their part somewhere in the games during the season. That gave us a little bit of experience.

Declan Rice was just back from a European final [with England] and Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal had just come back from the Euros as well. Suddenly, we had started to have a group of international players as well, who had more experience than some other players who maybe hadn’t been at that level yet. 

 

My backroom staff would probably say they're kept on their toes! They think they're lucky if they get home at half-six at night, from eight ‘o clock in the morning!

They’re in here all day with me, but I’ve always said that if the staff want to come to work for me, they need to know what I expect. We try to work really hard on doing the best we can for the players and being as planned and as organised as we can be.

Paul Nevin and Kevin Nolan have done a lot to do with set-pieces in the last couple of years, and Stuart Pearce is really good at sensing the mood in the squad – he’s a good communicator. Billy McKinlay is someone I’ve worked with for such a long time – he’ll know exactly what sessions I want and how I want things done. Xavi Valero was already here, and he’s been great with the goalkeepers.

They've all brought different things for me. They’ve all been really good and in their own way, they've been really important.


Stuart Pearce and David Moyes
 

When you become a manager, one of the biggest things is you want to make sure the supporters are getting a decent level of football, that they’re getting a bit of success and that you can give them something back. 

I think with all those things, I hope this year, all the supporters would say we have.

On top of that, from our point of view, there's been a togetherness amongst the Club, supporters and players and I think you can see that growing.

If we can get London Stadium the way it was the night we played Sevilla, it'll take some doing.

 

I'm going to try to savour it, but the games are on you so quick. 

We’ll have just finished a big game and we’ll have another game in three days time.

To embrace it in football now is very hard. We'd loved to have said, after coming away from Lyon, let’s bask in that glory for a few weeks or months, but we can't - we had to quickly get onto the next game. In the Premier League, you don't have any real time.

I’m guessing this is what it’s like if you're going to be a regular competitor or regular winner, or a challenger. You have to get used to doing that.

I don't think I've had loads of time to sit back and celebrate. You don't really get a chance to turn off because the job is all-consuming with how quickly the next games are on. Now, the amount of games teams have to play is really, really tough, and it has been for us, but I wouldn't want it any other way and I don't think the players want it any other way. 

They’re right on it at the moment and feeling very good, so we have to try and take that into the game.

 

I’ve always thought the good times are still to come and I’m still growing in experience and getting better with my work.

Whether that’s learning how to win at this level or celebrate or manage the amount of games, I’m still learning all the time, and I’m realising, if you’re very fortunate to be managing a team who are winning all the time, you’ve got some amount of games and you need to be thinking about how you change your players around if you’ve got a big enough squad. 

I’m only saying this because there is a difference. There’s a great deal of pressure at the bottom of the league, and it’s always the worst because maybe you could get relegated, and I think that’s really hard to take, but for the managers who have to win regularly, that comes with a big, big pressure as well. 

You’re expected to turn up and win when teams are making it hard for you to score, so at both levels of management, there are equally different pressures. 

The top one’s always a little bit better than the bottom one, that’s for sure.