Stuart Pearce says West Ham United’s international stars can be proud of their efforts this summer, but the focus now turns to preparing for the challenges ahead.
Declan Rice starred as England finished as runners-up at UEFA Euro 2020, while Tomáš Souček, Vladimír Coufal and Andriy Yarmolenko helped the Czech Republic and Ukraine reach the knockout stages.
All four, along with Poland goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański, Spain midfielder Pablo Fornals and Algeria winger Saïd Benrahma, have been given time off to rest and recharge after being called-up by their respective nations over the past couple of months.
And first-team coach Pearce believes their involvement is another positive for the Club following last season’s sixth-place Premier League finish and qualification for the UEFA Europa League group stage.
The Premier League doesn’t wait for you to catch up, it’s fair to say, and we know we’re starting afresh this year
“They’ve been brilliant, to be honest with you,” he told West Ham TV. “It’s been absolutely enjoyable watching it and the more players we can get away on international duty, it’s a mark of how well our Club are doing.”
Rice, in particular, earned rave reviews for his performances for England, climaxing in an outstanding display in the Three Lions’ final defeat by Italy at Wembley Stadium.
And Pearce, who himself won 78 England caps and reached the semi-finals of both the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96, says West Ham will benefit from the experiences the 22-year-old enjoyed during an unforgettable summer.
“You know me as a passionate Englishman, I was absolutely delighted with the contribution of the whole squad,” he said, reflecting on the achievements of Gareth Southgate’s men, who reached a first major final in 55 years.
“Secondly, obviously our connection with Declan means we are desperate for him to do well at international level and I thought he was magnificent. I think his contribution in the final was his best game, so he can be rightly proud of the experience he has had.
“That experience will stand him in great stead for us as a football club. His leadership will improve off the back of that as well and his esteem should improve in regard of going toe to toe with some of the best players in Europe.”
The international players will return to Rush Green over the coming days and weeks and Pearce says they will need to hit the ground running to be ready for the 2021/22 Premier League season, which kicks-off at Newcastle United on Sunday 15 August.
“The Premier League doesn’t wait for you to catch up, it’s fair to say, and we know we’re starting afresh this year,” he observed.
“We had a wonderful year last year but we will make the players acutely aware that what we did last year counts for absolutely nothing. We need to build, we have to get better and we know the stakes are going to be higher next year.
“We’ve got a wonderful European campaign in front of us which we’re all looking forward to. The players have got a great camaraderie at this football club and we need to build on that.”