The recent record of English teams in the Europa League qualifying rounds makes ominous reading for West Ham, who lost 2-1 to FK Domzale in Slovenia.
Assistant manager Nikola Jurcevic dished out the orders from the dugout, with Slaven Bilic serving a touchline ban during the first leg of their third-preliminary stage encounter, but was unable to steer his side to a favourable result.
The Irons must now win at the London Stadium in the second leg to keep their hopes of qualifying for the competition’s group stage alive, with the onus on not affording their guests the away goal that would make the Londoners’ position even more perilous.
Its seems that the preliminary rounds of the competition have become particularly tough to negotiate for English clubs in recent seasons, with each of the last three Premier League teams starting their journeys before the play-off round failing to make the group stage.
Last term saw both Southampton and West Ham themselves sabotage their fans’ dreams of an autumn spent on a series of continental jaunts with early exits to supposedly-inferior opposition.
A campaign earlier, Hull City failed to reach the mini leagues when falling to Lokeren at the final pre-group hurdle.
Even prior to the preliminary rounds in which they were eventually eliminated, both the 2015/16 Irons and the 2014/15 Tigers had been pushed almost the point of extinction by the third-best team in Malta and the champions of Slovakia respectively.
The early start to the Europa League is undoubtedly a sizeable factor in Premier League teams’ recent failures, with many players far from match fit and some yet to return to training following their summer international exertions.
West Ham, without chief creator Dimitri Payet while he is resting after his run to the Euro 2016 final with France, are no exception on either front.
Against Domzale, who are already two games deep into their own domestic league campaign, it’s little wonder that the Irons are finding the going tough.