West Ham stronger and ready for more European glory, says David Moyes

Hammers have shrugged off loss of star man Rice to make flying start to season

David Moyes gives instructions to two of his new recruits, Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus. Getty Images
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David Moyes insists West Ham are now stronger than they were when they won last season's Uefa Conference League – despite the loss of captain and star player Declan Rice.

England midfielder Rice was inspirational as the Hammers ended a 43-year wait for a major trophy by beating Fiorentina in last season's final. It proved his last act in a West Ham shirt as he promptly sealed a £105 million move to London rivals Arsenal.

Moyes wasted no time in reinvesting the club record fee, signing the likes of James Ward-Prowse from relegated Southampton and Ajax duo Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus.

Despite a poor league campaign last term, their Conference League success earned the Hammers a place in this season's Europa League, and Moyes' new-look side begin their quest for more European silverware when they face Serbian league leaders Backa Topola in Group A at the London Stadium on Thursday.

They do so following an encouraging start to their Premier League campaign, having won three and drawn one of their opening four matches before impressing in a loss against champions Manchester City last weekend.

Moyes said: “I think we’ve tried to build a stronger whole group [since losing Rice]. The competition is good in the squad. We want to keep that strong and the players are in a confident frame of mind, which comes from victories and playing well.”

That Conference League triumph was also the first piece of silverware for Moyes, who has enjoyed a long and eventful career managing Everton and Manchester United, among others. He surprised a few people that night, not by winning, but more for his jubilant and unrestrained celebrations.

“I’ve got to say there’s an inner glow about me because I know getting that victory means so much,” Moyes added.

“I’m pleased to carry that with me now. I hope we can do it again, I really do, because of the magic feeling when it happened, the aftermath, what it meant to so many people in East London and to West Ham supporters in particular.

“To be fortunate enough to win a European trophy is not something you get to do every day. Last year was magical.

“To be able to have my family there … they’ve probably been to hundreds and hundreds of games where I’ve been miserable, not wanting to go for a drink or for dinner.

“They are the lows and then you get the highs of a win and to be able to have the family there and to be part of it was magnificent.”

Elsewhere, in Amsterdam, there is a summit between two crisis clubs – hosts Ajax and visiting Marseille.

Ajax inexplicably find themselves down in 12th place in the Eredivisie after a dismal start to the season, while on Wednesday they were forced to open an investigation into their own director of football, Sven Mislintat.

The Dutch giants signed full-back Borna Sosa from Stuttgart in the final hours of the transfer window, allegedly using an agency in which Mislintat holds a financial interest.

Ajax said in a statement: “An independent external investigation will be conducted by a forensic accountant. Sven Mislintat has stated that he will provide full co-operation, including sharing all relevant documentation.”

Marseille, meanwhile, head to the Netherlands without a manager after Spanish coach Marcelino stepped down on the eve of the game.

The club have been swamped by fan protests in recent weeks, with supporters angered by poor results and the way the club is run.

Marcelino's departure followed a meeting on Monday between club president Pablo Longoria, several directors and groups of supporters, who hold considerable weight at Marseille.

The board said in a statement: “Olympique de Marseille considers that the events of September 18 do not allow Marcelino and his technical staff to carry out the role for which they were hired in the best possible conditions. As a consequence of this deplorable situation, Marcelino and his staff will not continue their mission at Olympique de Marseille.”

Updated: September 21, 2023, 3:58 AM