West Ham defender Thilo Kehrer has urged his team to make history by winning their first major trophy for 43 years when they face Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday.
The Hammers haven’t lifted a significant piece of silverware since Trevor Brooking’s header clinched a shock win against Arsenal in the 1980 FA Cup final.
In their first major European final since 1976, when they lost to Anderlecht in the Cup Winners’ Cup, West Ham are on the brink of finally ending their trophy drought.
West Ham’s most recent final was a painful penalty shoot-out defeat against a Liverpool side inspired by Steven Gerrard’s masterclass in the 2006 FA Cup.
But David Moyes’ men arrive in Prague as firm favourites to win the Europa Conference League against a Fiorentina team that finished eighth in Serie A.
Although West Ham came a disappointing 14th in the Premier League this term, but they will never get a better chance to win the fifth major trophy in their history.
Although West Ham dub themselves “The Academy” in a proud reference to their record of developing stars including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, the club have rarely parlayed those talents into success.
Their sole triumph in Europe came in the 1965 Cup Winners’ Cup when Moore and Hurst were among the side that beat 1860 Munich in the final.
That was the club’s golden era as Moore, Hurst and Martin Peters, another homegrown West Ham product, played key roles in England’s World Cup final victory against West Germany a year later.
Kehrer knows Moyes’ team have a chance to make their own history against Fiorentina.
“I said at the beginning of the season without knowing how it would go, bringing a title to West Ham is a big goal,” the German said.
“Making history is being in the final. Now our focus and vision is completing the goal.
“You can feel the excitement of everybody around the club. For us players it’s great to be in that place.
“We have the squad and quality to do it, so we’re very confident.”
Last season, West Ham lost to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-finals.
They have made amends by reaching the final of a competition much-maligned in some quarters, but never again among West Ham supporters.
While West Ham are expected to bring home the silverware, there is extra pressure on them amid speculation about Moyes’ future.
Reports have circulated this week that Moyes could be sacked if they don’t win the final after a troubled domestic campaign featuring poor performances from several of his expensive new signings.
“To be in a cup final is special, certainly for West Ham because it’s been a while since we’ve been there,” Moyes said.
“The only focus I’ve got is to win the game. I’m not thinking any further ahead than that.”
Declan Rice has been one of the few West Ham players to shine and the England midfielder — linked with Arsenal, Manchester City and Bayern Munich — could be playing his last game after Moyes admitted he is likely to leave in the close-season.
Adding to the tension around West Ham is the potential for trouble on the streets of Prague.
Despite having a ticket allocation of only 6,000, around 20,000 West Ham fans are expected to make the trip to the Czech capital.
There will be a huge police presence after ugly clashes between fans before and after West Ham’s semi-final second leg win at AZ Alkmaar.
But Kehrer is confident the fans will provide an uplifting presence as West Ham set their sights on a historic night.
“We feel the support of every one of our fans. We are taking that energy with us to Prague,” he said.
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