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Jack Lang: West Ham face long European road – and half-measures will only result in disappointment

30 Jul | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Jack Lang: West Ham face long European road – and half-measures will only result in disappointment

The Irons must fully commit to their Europa League campaign or risk repeating Tottenham's errors from last season

European football should be a gift to a football club – an opportunity to test progress against the best sides on the continent and treat fans to a little glitz and glamour in the process.

The rule certainly applies to the Champions League, that most lucrative of cash cows. Chairmen and supporters the nation would give a toe to host Barcelona and partake in the riches of the world’s greatest club competition.

It is a pipe dream for the vast majority, of course, but the race for the top four has brought plenty of intrigue to the Premier League in the last decade.

The Europa League (né UEFA Cup) is a different beast, however. Once a hip, outsider competition, it is now the Champions League’s boorish brother – one that is forever forcing you to sit through his favourite jazz albums when you really just want a quick go on his pogo stick.

The latter stages are usually interesting, but precious few people are hardy enough to still be awake by the time they roll around.

50/1 – West Ham to win the Europa League

The names of the teams hardly roll off the tongue, especially in the preliminary stages. There’s Zeljeznicar and Jelgava, FH and HB, Koper and Flora. There’s Rabotnicki, Balzan and Trakai, who sound like characters from the new Mortal Kombat game. Earlier this month there was a fixture between teams called Sheriff and Odd.

European memories are not made of this.

Then there’s the sheer grind of the thing. Having made the qualifiers through the Fair Play league, West Ham could end up playing a total of 23 games… and that’s on top of the usual domestic commitments.

You would forgive them for not being crazy about the idea given the difficulty of competing in the Premier League at the best of times.

Thus far, the signs have been positive: the Irons have overcome Lusitanos and Birkirkara and appear to be taking things seriously. Next up are Astra Giurgiu, who, no, us neither.

4/7 – West Ham to beat Astra Giurgiu tonight

Slaven Bilic’s men are four games away from the group stage and have at the very least had some fairly intense matches in place of the usual pre-season fare.

The question is whether, when push comes to shove, European football is among their priorities. If it is, then great: throw caution to the wind and give the fans something to dream about.

But if things are going to peter out in the winter anyway, you sense that the players would probably best be spared a traipse around some of the continent’s outposts.

If Tottenham’s 2014/15 Europa League campaign taught us anything, it is that half-measures satisfy no one.

West Ham v Astra Giurgiu