By Andy Sims, PA
David Moyes wants his West Ham players to keep their heads in Europe, but not to be “vanilla”.
Last season the Hammers melted in the cauldron of Eintracht Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park, crashing out in the semi-final of the Europa League.
Aaron Cresswell and Moyes himself were sent off, the manager for booting the ball at a ball-boy, while Declan Rice was later banned for ranting at officials in the tunnel, as West Ham totally lost their cool.
On Thursday they begin their bid to reach another semi-final, at Belgian side Gent in the first leg of their last-eight clash in the Europa Conference League, and Moyes knows they need to learn the lessons of 12 months ago.
“Emotions are something you never know what’s going to happen, looking back I can understand it, we were right up against it on occasions, but we’ve got to make sure we are better disciplined, calmer,” said Moyes.
“But we still want the players to be emotional, we want them to understand what it means, we want them to be motivated and eager to impress.
“We don’t want vanilla players who are going to go around and not tackle, challenge, run hard, be competitive. You need players who are going to do all those things. We have to learn where we can draw the line.”
Moyes will have his father David snr, son David jnr and daughter Lauren in the stands in Belgium.
“My brother’s bringing my dad out and I hope when I’m old my son’s taking me to football matches and watching games,” he added.
“I’d love to give the supporters another couple of nights like we did last season and I’d truly like to go further if we can. I’ve got big respect for Gent but I would do for all the teams we play.
“We’ve got no divine right to be getting through, we’re going to have to work very hard for it, we’re going to have to play well.”
Czech full-back Vladimir Coufal admits he is still haunted by that semi-final defeat.
“When you lose a game like this last season, it’s still in my head to be honest,” he said.
“Me and my team-mates are doing everything to repair the semi-final loss from last season and lift the trophy.”
Gent, fourth in the Belgian first division, reached the quarter-finals by beating Qarabag of Azerbaijan and Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir in the knock-out rounds.
Coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck said: “West Ham are having a hard time in the Premier League, but in Europe they just got 18 points out of 18 in their group and effortlessly continued in the knock-out rounds. Hopefully we can put something in their way.”