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Europe Now A Priority

Things aren’t getting any less stressful for Effra, who thinks the implications of a European Tour could be much more than West Ham bargained for.

‘Getting into Europe’ became a mantra last season for West Ham – something tangible to show for the fact that West Ham were back and intending to stay. Now Europe’s here, but nobody could possibly have guessed that day at Villa Park, when Marlon turned and smashed the ball into the net to make it happen, what the opening match against Palermo would actually mean to the club.

As with many things these days, West Ham have a mixed blessing on their hands. Since there are so many matches and a group stage in which teams can avoid each other, winning or progressing far into the UEFA cup can’t easily be part of any club’s master-plan at the beginning of the season, and I don’t think it was part of Pardew’s. Hedging your bets on a successful first trip into Europe competition is not the sort of decision a manager of his success would make.

Prior to Tevezcherano, he was probably wanting use a UEFA cup run to take the players to another level by having to keep the ball better and gaining experience in European competition – much like Newcastle, Tottenham or Blackburn may still see it. But for West Ham the expectations, and squad, are now very different. Staying in it for a good part of the season has become an absolutely necessity to provide enough games to keep as many players as possible involved, and show the rest of the football world that we are worth the hype – whether we perpetuated it or not. The club must also juggle Premiership responsibilities and not suffer the ill effects of a European focus as arguably Liverpool and Arsenal have done recently.

Anxiety seemed to infect everybody on Sunday, with the weight of Tevezcherano showing on Pardew certainly if not the players themselves. Lose to Palermo and it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Beat Palermo, preferably with a few goals from Marlon, and everyone will calm down and move on. I thought this season was going to about the FA Cup again, and start properly in January, but these UEFA cup games over the next fortnight have quickly become quite possibly the most important of West Ham’s season.

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