What do you see as the challenge for winning the Europa League?
The biggest challenge is playing Sevilla because of their history in the competition and how well they have done this season, that is my biggest concern. I see it as a great chance and opportunity to play one of the best teams in European football. They have been very good for many years, it is a game I am looking forward to.
Is this tie a fantastic reward for everything you have done since coming back to the club?
I feel it is where the group of players should be. The group we have are capable. There are times this season where it does not matter who we play we will get a win. That changes through injuries at different times but I see this as a great game for us, great stadium, really good history in the competition. It is two legs we have this one and we are looking forward to bringing Sevilla to the London Stadium next week
You have dropped off a bit since November does that change your perception of coming here to get a result?
No it doesn’t. I think we have shown in the big games and many of them we have stood up and been counted. It is a challenge to us and we have found some games against the lesser teams harder but we are playing a very good team tomorrow.
Is Declan Rice fit to start tomorrow?
He trained today for the first time. He did not train yesterday. He was very unwell but he is with us and if fit and available he will certainly play.
What are your standout memories from this season so far?
Going to Zagreb in the opening game. We were brave and made changes and gave ourselves a chance in this competition because we knew we had to put out a strong team but give the squad adequate games as well. I thought the players grew into it and played with great confidence in the games and really enjoyed it.
To finish in European places in England where you have the Champions League winners, the runners up and the Europa League finalists I know the winner was Spanish last year but we have a really difficult league to qualify for Europe. Only two years ago we were trying to avoid relegation so we have come a long way in a short time but we have some really gifted players and talented footballers. Pablo has become a Spanish international which was a great thrill, Declan Rice is an England international and we are hoping to add to that as we go on. We have a competitive team and hopefully, we can compete against Sevilla.
Three thousand tickets and 10,000 fans is this the enjoyable part of the job?
That makes me smile, you want to play in Europe, it is the elite to challenge yourself against. Our effort last year is why we are in this position. We were hoping for the best teams at the draw we wanted the best teams, to challenge them and see how we do.
It is our first time here for so long and at the moment we are trying to stay in a European position in the Premier League which is so difficult. To get through to the next round will be a great achievement and we have tomorrow night and next week to do that.
Sevilla have a lot of injuries does that hand you an advantage?
It is difficult because we have injuries as well, Angelo Ogbonna, who is an Italian international. Jarrod Bowen is out for this game and he has been in great form the last two months so we have injuries ourselves. I think Sevilla have a really strong squad of players so we will have to play well and hopefully, we will push them hard as well.
Do players like Fornals and Vlasic need to step up in front of goal?
Yes I agree with you. In the last two games we felt we if we had the finishing we would have been through in the cup and a great opportunity to take something from Anfield but we missed those chances. Our goalscoring record has been pretty good, Pablo and Jarrod have contributed, the central defenders too and I think there has been some good signs from Antonio in recent games that he is on his way back. He is so important to how the team players, a good Mich makes us play better but we need those goals because the last two games we could have got more than we did out of them.
Does not having Bowen change the way you play?
It does a little bit, it will limit us as Jarrod has an X factor, which you need upfront. He has been in good form the last two to three months it will not change us a great deal but we are missing an important player just like Sevilla too.
Is tomorrow season defining?
You make it sound like silverware is easy. I have to say trying to beat the teams in this competition or the FA Cup it is a much harder job to win than it is to ask the question. Us to be here in Europe in March and bring 10,000 fans is a big thrill. It is much better than 10,000 to a third or fourth bottom Premier League game to try and stay in the league.
There has been a big change, West Ham have done a brilliant job to get into this position and we want everyone to be aware of that. We are really driven to succeed and get through but we are also are really driven to challenge in the cup and the league but we are realisitc to know we have just started on a long journey and we are only on the first bit of it
Is it disrespectful to the other players that so much attention is on Declan Rice?
You only need to look at Saturday without Declan against the second best team in England was as good as we have put in for a while. We made chances without him and did not concede chances without him. He is part of the team he is not the team.
Is the platform here for this to be a regular thing?
We have a long way to go say we will be a regular team [in Europe]. we are hanging on a little in different areas, we accept that the squad is not big enough and not signing in January. We know what we would have liked to have done and we have tried to explain that, we are in a really good position with a great group of players, they are resilient and more games make them better, there is no drop off in the physicality maybe in the quality but apart form that I cannot fault them the players have done a brilliant job.
Can you plan for Jarrod in the second leg?
We hope Jarrod can make it for the second leg, we do not see it as a [long] injury, he has had three or four scans and there is nothing severe but we are hoping to find the cause and to get him back as he is important.
Can you explain how you have taken the club to this level?
I had something to prove when I came back. Something to show. West Ham didn’t take me the first time, when I felt we’d done enough. We all can get things wrong. I admire them for admitting they got it wrong. I felt I had to drive things on and make sure they saw the best of me. From my point of view, it’s been complete energy from me that I can drive on. The team think they’re doing quite well at the moment, but I think they can do much better. I can see them going to that level more often.
I lost in the quarter-final with Everton on penalities to Fiorentina and the quarter-final to Bayern Munich in the Champions League so I am desperate to go further but I am up against Julen who has won it with Sevilla.
Have you evolved West Ham as a club to make players want to stay as part of the club?
This is what we are doing and I have hinted at it that we will be adding to the squad. We will add to it and make us stronger as we go along to keep up with the Jones’, the competition is so so hard but we have something going at the moment and I am enjoying it.
Is there one match from your reign that stands out?
I expect my players to win. If we play Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, I expect them to win. I’m really disappointed when we don’t win. I go into the games challenging the players to win and overcome the opposition.
Maybe the Yarmolenko goal agasint Chelsea which probably kept us in the Premier League but since then I am looking higher. I need the players to win more than 20 games a season. We are challenging them to keep doing that.
Is there pressure so this is not a flash in the pan?
I want it to be the new West Ham. The new West Ham that qualfiies for Europe. The new West Ham that fills a stadium because the football is good and we have young, exciting players. This time last year I felt Europe was a possibility. Prior to that, we were about avoiding relegation, that was the job. To think of where we have come in one year, from midtable to challenging for Europe, now we’re talking in terms of Champions League football. We have moved a big amount in a short space of time.
Have there ever been times in your reign where you ever doubted this is a step too far?
This time last year I thought Europe was a possibility, maybe in January or February when we went on a great run, prior to that we were avoiding relegation that was the job. So to think where we have come in one year changed us from midtable to become a team challenging for Europe. This year we have been talked about for Champions Lague football. We enjoy the European games which are a great step up, we have moved a big amount in a short time. Tomorrow is a different level for all the players. Many of the boys have played in the Champions League, the Czech boys but as a club and a group this is all pretty new.
Where you worried about the draw?
I consider Sevilla the favourites with Barcelona for the competition. There are a lot of Spanish team in it so we were expecteing to face one. This is a game where I know the manager a little, Sevilla success has been incredible so the level of difficulty is high, we are new and we don’t know an awful lot yet so maybe that helps us, so we go into the game with no baggage and freedom and hopefully we can do that over the two games.