West Ham United fans are dreaming of European football. Following Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace, the Hammers lie just two points outside of the Europa League qualifying spot in eighth.
David Moyes’ team have lost just twice in their last 11 matches – a run which has seen the London side take eight points off last season’s top seven – to record their best start to a Premier League campaign since 2015/16.
It’s a far cry from last December, which saw West Ham hurtling towards the relegation zone and Manuel Pellegrini lose his job on Boxing Day, and the positive start has fans believing that the European nights promised with the move to the London Stadium may not be too far away.
However, despite a recent track record littered with more relegation scrapes than exotic away trips, West Ham aren’t as unfamiliar with European football as one might think.
West Ham No Strangers to European Football
1965-2006: Two Trophies in Seven European Appearances
After lifting the 1964 FA Cup, the Hammers qualified for the following season’s UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Under Bobby Moore’s captaincy, West Ham navigated K.A.A Gent, Sparta Prague, Lausanne and Real Zaragoza to set up a final clash with 1860 Munich at Wembley. Alan Sealey scored a brace as the Clarets became the second English side, after Tottenham Hotspur, to hoist a European trophy.
The Hammers reached the semi-finals the following season, losing 2-1 to eventual winners Borussia Dortmund, before losing the 1976 final 4-2 to Anderlecht at the Heysel Stadium.
Bowing out of the 1981 Cup Winners’ Cup in the quarter-finals to Dinamo Tblisi, it would be almost a quarter of a century before West Ham reached their third European final. Then, after finishing the 1998/99 season in fifth place, Harry Redknapp’s side qualified for Europe’s most bizarre competition. A 114 match bonanza with uncertain entry criteria, multiple champions and backdoor passes into the UEFA Cup, welcome to the Intertoto Cup.
Joining the competition in the third round, West Ham edged past Finland’s Jokerit and Dutch side Heerenveen before defeating Metz in one of three two-legged finals. Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Wanchope and a 21-year old Frank Lampard bagged the goals as West Ham secured entry to the 1999/00 UEFA Cup.
Unfortunately, their run in the competition would be short-lived. Following a resounding 6-1 victory over Osijek in the first round, West Ham lost 2-0 to Steaua Bucharest to exit the competition and begin a run of bad luck against Romanian opposition.
Similarly, in 2006 after finishing as runners-up in the FA Cup, West Ham made a cameo appearance on the European stage. This time, Alan Pardew’s men fell at the first fence to Palermo, bringing the curtain down on a seventh European appearance in 41 years.
2015/16: West Ham’s Fair Play Rewarded With European Football
The 2014/15 season was a disappointment. After spending much of the first half of the campaign in the hunt for European football, West Ham won just twice in their last 16 matches to finish a mediocre 11th. Unsurprisingly, Sam Allardyce lost his job, replaced by Croat Slaven Bilic.
However, after topping the Premier League Fair Play table, the East London side were rewarded with a spot in the Europa League first qualifying round. A fitting way to start the final season at the Boleyn Ground.
Kicking off their European journey in Andorra, West Ham cruised to a 4-0 aggregate victory over Lusitanos. Diafra Sakho (2) and James Tomkins scored at Upton Park before Elliot Lee marked his full debut with the only goal in Andorra la Vella.
Tomkins bagged his second of the competition against Birkirkara, converting a late winner to give West Ham a slender one-goal lead. However, in a bad-tempered return leg in Malta, Fabrizio Miccoli earned his side a 1-0 victory to send the match into extra-time and penalties. Fortunately, the Hammers kept their cool to triumph 5-4, with Dimitri Payet converting the winning spot-kick.
Facing Astra Giurgiu for a spot in the playoffs, West Ham were cruising to a 2-0 first-leg lead before James Collins received a second yellow card. Reduced to ten men, Bilic’s side conceded two late away goals to leave themselves with it all to do in Romania. New signing Manuel Lanzini put the Hammers ahead inside three minutes before two goals in four minutes from Constantin Budescu sent the London side crashing out of the competition, defeated 4-3 on aggregate.
2016/17: Back to Back Appearances and Déjà Vu
Just as they entered their final season at the Boleyn Ground on a high, life at the London Stadium started with a bang. Finishing the 2015/16 season in seventh, just four points outside of the Champions League places, West Ham earned a spot in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
Drawn against NK Domzale, Mark Noble’s penalty earned the Hammers a potentially crucial away goal in a 2-1 defeat in Slovenia. Playing their first match at the London Stadium a week later, West Ham romped to victory in front of nearly 54,000 claret and blue-clad fans. Cheikhou Kouyate (2) and Sofiane Feghouli scored in the 3-0 win to set up a play-off grudge match against the previous season’s nemesis, Astra Giurgiu.
Unfortunately, despite the new stadium, it was the same result. Heading into the second leg in London with the scores at 1-1, former West Brom midfielder Filipe Teixeira scored for the visitors and despite throwing wildcard James Collins on upfront, West Ham couldn’t force an equaliser.
After missing out the Europa League proper at the final hurdle, West Ham failed to replicate their form of the previous season and finished a lowly 11th. They are still waiting for their 10th and latest European adventure.
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