Europa Conference League: Joe Cole hails ‘special day’ for West Ham as club make history by reaching final


West Ham have made it through to a European final for the first time in 47 years after beating AZ Alkmaar 3-0 on aggregate in the Europa Conference League and the sense of achievement wasn’t lost on BT Sport expert Joe Cole, who labelled it a “special day”.

David Moyes’ side won the second leg 1-0 thanks to Pablo Fornals’ goal in added-time to set up a showpiece final against Fiorentina in Prague on June 7, and The Hammers can now look forward to their first final in European competition since 1975-76, when they were Cup Winners’ Cup runners-up.

They will meet Fiorentina in Prague on Wednesday, June 7.

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“It’s a special day, and they should be happy and they should celebrate it,” beamed former West Ham midfielder Cole.

“It’s a huge achievement for the club, this group of players, for David Moyes, Declan Rice, the young captain of this club.”

It was not the most impressive showing from West Ham, but Cole said the final result is all that matters.

“It’s not the time to pick the bones out of the performance, it wasn’t a good performance. But when you play games like this, sometimes it’s just about getting over the line,” he said.

Cole also paid tribute to defender Aaron Cresswell, who was sent off in the Europa League semi-final defeat to Frankfurt last season but has more than played his part in his team’s success this term.

“He came under a lot of fire for getting sent off in the semi-final, and he’s a good lad, a fantastic player, and he’s been at the club for nearly 10 years and I’m so pleased he’s got his moment now,” said Cole.

He continued: “But what I would say to the West Ham players is: enjoy tonight but the final is where it’s at. You have to go there and win that, put your hands on that trophy and become a hero for this club for eternity.”

He also praised boss David Moyes, who has also received criticism this season as a result of West Ham’s poor form in the Premier League.

“I think West Ham fans need to understand where the club was when he came in through the door. What a job this man has done,” he said.

Former striker Carlton Cole said the West Ham supporters deserved this success – and urged the players to mark the occasion even with a Premier League game against Leeds just three days away.

“It’s just been a brilliant day. West Ham are in the final, a final – wow,” he said.

“To reach the final, they’re going to be elated, obviously. But they’ve celebrated with the fans and they’re back in.

“I know there’s a big game on at the weekend, against Leeds, and a point will keep them mathematically safe. But at the same time, they can have one bevvy!”

West Ham are 15th in the Premier League table in what has been a disappointing season domestically, but they can secure their top-flight status with a draw against Leeds at London Stadium on Sunday.

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