David Moyes has said his squad are enjoying the situation they find themselves in as his team prepare to take on Newcastle United knowing a win will move them into third place with six games remaining.
The reverse fixture came on the opening day of the season, with the Hammers losing 2-0 – a result Moyes described as an ‘anomaly’.
The Hammers lost their next league game when they took on Arsenal but after a much-improved performance, the team took confidence into their third fixture of the season and got a win under their belts, a 4-0 thrashing against Leicester City.
It is the Foxes West Ham can leapfrog this weekend, but after a relegation battle last year Moyes insists his team are thriving under the pressure of being at the top end of the table.
“If anything I think we’re becoming more relaxed,” he said. “When we were coming to the business end last year and the year before we were needing to score goals and get points to stay up or keep away from the bottom three.
“So we’re enjoying this new situation, we’re enjoying training, everybody is working hard and it’s been good fun on the training ground. We’ve built a good spirit and we’re hoping we can keep it going.
“I don’t think we need to add any more pressure. The position we have put ourselves in is incredible. I don’t know where we are going to finish. But the fact we’ve won two very difficult back-to-back games against Wolves and Leicester gives you an idea of our intent and what we’re trying to do.”
Moyes is well aware that for his team to be in this position has shocked many, including himself, but that even if their Champions League challenge falls short it should not be considered a disaster after what has been a superb season to date.
“If you’d have said West Ham would have been challenging around the top come April time, I don’t think anyone would have believed it and I don’t think I would have done either,” he said.
“We’ve gone on and got better. The players have continued to improve, our physicality has got better as the year has gone on – we are not dipping at the moment.
“The only issue we have got at the moment is that we have lost a couple of really good players through injury which could have an effect. We have been very consistent with our team selection mostly because of no injuries. We have got ourselves in a really strong position.”
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The injuries to Declan Rice and Michail Antonio have come at a bad time for West Ham but without both, his team were able to claim all three points against Leicester and there is hope the duo will return before the end of the season to help push the Hammers over the line. An accomplishment Moyes thinks would be the greatest of his managerial career.
“This would be a bigger achievement [than taking Everton to fourth] because I have only been at West Ham for a year – this is my first full season. Last year when I came it was to avoid relegation. And even the time before it was to avoid relegation. So this was really the first time I have been given the chance to take the club from a pre-season to the end of the season. And I have got them challenging around the top,” he said.
The manager added: “We did not always play in Europe and make the Champions League, that’s for sure. But we tended to be challenging at the top and that is my aim with West Ham. We can try to challenge up around the top eight places if possible.”