By Andy Sims, PA
Pablo Fornals hailed the goalscoring return of Jarrod Bowen ahead of West Ham’s historic Europa League showdown with Lyon.
Bowen came back from a month out with a foot injury to score the winner against Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
“It is massive for us,” said Spanish midfielder Fornals. “Not just for what he brings to the team but also he is encouraging everyone else to fight for a spot.
“That is very good for all of us because it is not going to be easy to get into the team. It is better for us.”
Attention in east London has now shifted to Thursday’s home leg against Ligue 1 Lyon in West Ham’s first European quarter-final for 41 years.
“As you can imagine it is very exciting for the players and staff but also the people who support West Ham,” added Fornals. “It has been massive. We are going to try and go as far as we can in all competitions because I think every one of us deserves it.
“It is unbelievable and I am really happy and proud to be a part of this moment in West Ham history. It is massive for my career and I am really happy to be here.”
West Ham’s small squad was stretched to the limit before the international break, but full-backs Vladimir Coufal and Ryan Fredericks are also fit again after spells out injured.
“It is very good because we were playing the last two weeks before the last international break with one, maybe one and a half, players for each spot” said Fornals.
“That was a bit hard. Now we have Ryan, Vlad and Bowen all back and the other teams now know we have even more players in the team.
“I think since we started the season everyone can see how together we are and how important each one in the group is. It doesn’t matter how much you are playing, you have a chance to help the team and that is the main thing.”
Aaron Cresswell’s spectacular free-kick put West Ham ahead against Everton and, although Mason Holgate equalised with a deflected effort, Bowen converted the rebound from Michail Antonio’s shot to seal a 2-1 win.
Defeat left Everton still looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation zone and facing a huge match with fellow strugglers Burnley on Wednesday.
“The next game will always be so important,” said manager Frank Lampard. “We can’t even think in blocks of games because the next one is a competitor down in the same area of the table. No-one gets an easy game at Burnley.”