Tomas Soucek’s experience with the Czech Republic during Euro 2020 has him champing at the bit to get back to action for West Ham.
During Euro 2020, Soucek was at the heart of his country’s run to the quarter-final stage with the newly-crowned Hammer of the Year captaining his side to a famous 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the last 16.
The thrill of leading his country was further enhanced by playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Puskas Arena in Budapest and Soucek cannot wait to do the same at the London Stadium.
Speaking after West Ham’s 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Atalanta, Soucek told football.london the return of supporters is what most excites him about the upcoming campaign.
“To be honest, for this season what I am most looking forward to is playing in front of fans, because I missed them and the football without them is not good,” Soucek said.
“I played, for example, a nice game in Hungary in front of 60,000 or 70,000 people and it was maybe after one and a half years [without fans] so I look forward now to each game of the Premier League.”
Unlike many of his Hammers teammates, Soucek has not had a full pre-season, with the Czech star only returning to West Ham on July 28. The central midfielder is not fazed by his short break and says he is raring to go against Newcastle in the Hammers’ league opener next weekend.
“I feel very good because I had a long tournament and after I had just two and a half weeks off so it’s not so long,” he said.
“I had a little break myself in the Czech Republic, so I feel very good even though I am resting for only two weeks but I feel good and I hope that I am ready for next week for the first game of the Premier League.”
Soucek added: “I feel refreshed because normally, in my country, we had maybe twice a year, two and a half weeks [break], one in summer and one in winter.
“So for me, it was enough time to recover and I looked forward to [seeing] the guys again, and I’m happy that I’m back.”
Soucek played 64 minutes of West Ham’s victory over Atalanta, with the midfielder linking up with Declan Rice like the pair had never been apart.
The 26-year-old was full of praise for Rice but believes there is still more to come from the Hammers duo.
“My partnership with Declan is very good for me and I hope that we can still improve because there is still space for improving.
“I am happy that he is still a young guy and a young star, and he can improve next to me and be one of the top central midfielders and I [can] improve next to him as well.
“We know each other so one can move and the next one can immediately fill in the space, so it is a good relationship and I hope it will carry on.”
Soucek and Rice controlled the midfield battle against Atalanta on Saturday but the biggest positive from the 25-year-old’s perspective was seeing the West Ham supporters again.
“It’s great [being back] because for me it was my first game [of pre-season] and immediately in front of these fans, I think that this might be 30,000. So it’s great to have them back. And I’m happy that we showed them a good game, and we won a good game.”
The evening before the clash with Atalanta, Soucek was named Hammer of the Year after a superb first full season in the Premier League. He also received the top goalscorer award jointly with Michail Antonio, after notching ten strikes across the league campaign.
However, despite reaching double digits last time out, Soucek is not putting himself under pressure to repeat the feat but likes to tick off his targets one step at a time.
“I want to score the first goal and then take the next step,” he said.
“I set myself [a target] before last season that I wanted to score three of four goals and I scored ten so it was a big achievement for me.
“But now just the first step, I want to score the first goal, I want the first win with the team and after that, we take the next step.”
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Soucek cannot wait for the new season and the return to the physicality of the English game, however, his wife Natalie does not share his enthusiasm.
“It is my style that I want to do the maximum for my team and sometimes it is crap [getting hurt], to be honest and my wife is scared for me!” he said.
“But I like to play this type of football and to do the maximum for the win and to fight and I heard that in England, and especially West Ham, people love it and so it is great for me that I came to a club that love my style.”