David Moyes exclusive: West Ham stars realise they can match the best... we must keep the flame burning

It is midway through the international break, and what remains of West Ham’s playing squad are having lunch prior to the afternoon session at their Rush Green training ground.

The manager’s office door is shut, but outside the sound of laughter reverberates loud and clear, from the players’ restaurant. David Moyes will enjoy his lunch a little later.

For now, he is talking about West Ham’s terrific start to the Premier League season, the challenge of Saturday’s home game against Treble winners Manchester City and his ambitions and hopes for the future.

Last season, it took nine games for West Ham to amass 10 points. This season, they have done it in four.

A well-below-par League campaign last season was counter-balanced by the club’s Europa Conference League triumph in June — leading to a third successive season in Europe.

One can therefore understand Moyes’s sense of pride when he contemplates the game against City, which will see which two of the three European club champions meet head to head at London Stadium.

City’s success came in the blue chip Champions League, while West Ham emerged victorious in the third-tier competition, but as Moyes says: “We are both European champions — and not many clubs get to say that.”

Back on top: David Moyes has engineered a brilliant start to the new season for West Ham (Getty Images)
Back on top: David Moyes has engineered a brilliant start to the new season for West Ham (Getty Images)

The self-assurance that often follows that success, plus some astute signings, has also enabled Moyes’s team to come rampaging out of the blocks.

“The start we’ve made has been fantastic, and it could have been even better, since we were 1-0 up at Bournemouth in the opening game, only for them to equalise in the 85th minute,” says the Scot. “We followed that up by beating Chelsea and after that we’ve been on the road with wins at Brighton and then Luton.

“I do believe these players, after our European success, realise they can match the best and compete against the top teams — and they don’t come much better than this weekend against Manchester City.

“We’re all hugely proud of what we have achieved, but there’s also the feeling that, with one trophy in the cabinet, let’s see if we can add to it.”

One disappointment for Moyes this summer was the amount of negativity which swiftly followed his team’s success.

“Yes, I was surprised at the level of outside negativity when we came back to pre-season,” he says. “I couldn’t quite understand it. Okay, we hadn’t made any signings, but it wasn’t for the want of trying.

“The fact is the club made good offers for a number of players, but we were getting knocked back in the early part of the transfer window.

We’re building something new. We lost Declan Rice, but we’ve brought new players in and they have settled quickly

“I just felt I was under pressure right away,” He insists, however, that that pressure was not heightened by him entering the final year of his current deal at the club.

“It wouldn’t matter if I had a contract or not,” says Moyes. “I’m really happy here and enjoying my work. I’m looking forward to bedding in the new players and seeing how things turn out.

“We’re building something new. We lost Declan Rice, our talismanic midfielder, but we’ve brought new players in and they have settled quickly.

“Edson Alvarez is a prime example. He went straight into the team after his move from Ajax and then looked as though he had been here for a long time.

“I wanted to add some Premier League experience as well, because last season I believe our slow start was partly down to players taking time to get used to the Premier League.

“So we signed James Ward-Prowse. We wanted him a year ago, but it didn’t happen. We tried again this summer, because I felt he would add value to our squad. We wanted a midfielder who would score some goals and also one who has been known for his assists and set-pieces.”

Fast start: Edson Alvarez is among the West Ham summer signings to have settled quickly (Getty Images)
Fast start: Edson Alvarez is among the West Ham summer signings to have settled quickly (Getty Images)

Moyes also has no dispute with those fans who want their team to play a more expansive game.

“I do want to be more expansive, and that’s why we signed Lucas Paqueta last season and Mohammed Kudus this summer,” he says.

“It’s not easy to change everything. We’ve tried different elements of our game and it hasn’t always worked.

“Last season, we didn’t score enough goals and we want to improve on that, but still ensuring we are hard to beat. That might not be what everyone wants to watch or hear, but ultimately the way we’ve played is part of the reason we’ve won a European trophy and are back in Europe.

“I don’t want to change those basics, but I do want us to develop and keep moving forward.

“We are filling the stadium almost every game now. I see a great number of young fans there, partly because of the affordability — and that is heartening going forward.

“Once you stop growing, then you go backwards. I’ve been here almost four years now and we’ve probably had a disappointing five months in that time.

“We didn’t want Declan to go, but quite often when you sell one of your best players, everyone else steps up. Also, when you bring players in, those already here want to prove they are better.

“I want this club to continue to grow. I can’t tell the fans everything but a lot of what we are trying to achieve, is really positive. I want this flame to keep burning.”