He does not lose faith. He talked about West Ham’s crisis, Leverkusen’s interest, the young rep and his life’s goal in Eden

The interview comes on the second day of the national team meeting in Prague before the qualifying match for EURO 2024 with Poland. Still with an unclear future, whether the injury will let him on the field on Friday. Coufal talks openly about the situation at the club, the rejuvenation of the national team and outlines where he would like to go with football.

Do you have an explanation for why West Ham have been bottom of the table for most of the season?

None, I can’t understand it. Maybe the summer transfer window didn’t suit us, when a lot of new players arrived and we need time. We had a certain style that now has to be dug up and probably everything hasn’t fit yet. But I’m definitely not saying that it’s only the newcomers’ fault. In addition, we stopped scoring goals, we concede a lot simply, after our own mistakes. However, no one admits that we should not manage the season.

What would happen if the rescue mission didn’t work out after all?

I don’t even want to think about it, I don’t know. As I say, we don’t think about it at all, so we can’t even imagine such a situation. We just have to save ourselves and we want to succeed in the Conference League.

On the other hand, the Premier League is extremely balanced in the bottom half.

Exactly, when you make a streak of three wins, which is very difficult in England, you are out of it. We are not losing faith, there is no reason.

Photo: Gareth Fuller, ČTK/AP

Vladimír Coufal in a West Ham jersey (left) during a fight with Renan Lodi from Nottingham.Photo: Gareth FullerČTK/AP

During the fall, you dropped out of the starting line-up at times, how do you currently perceive your position?

I think she’s great. I started playing everything since winter. I hope to be healthy after the international break and pick up where I left off.

In December, there were even reports that your name was on the list of unwanted players. Was there any truth to that?

I don’t know where a list came from, nobody said anything like that to my face and I think manager David Moyes would. Right after the World Cup, he called me and said that I was important to him, that it was a mistake that I didn’t play a few matches. He held me and said that if I had planned to leave somewhere, he wouldn’t let me go. I heard something about the charter, but it must have been conjured up by someone.

At the same time, Leverkusen, among others, should have sought you out.

There was interest, people from the club came to see, some negotiations took place. But it was a standard market demand, nothing to do with me leaving. At Bayer, they were deciding whether Jeremie Frimpong would leave, I wasn’t that busy at the time. Of course, it attracted me in a way, Leverkusen is an elite German team, there are two Czech boys in the squad, they play interesting football. But maybe it would be a step back. Not from a team point of view, but from a competition point of view, the Premier League is the best in my eyes. So I preferred to stay on the Islands. I’m happy to have earned a place in the West Ham squad.

It sounds like you like England more and more. Is there a thing you haven’t gotten used to yet?

Not much can surprise me, it will be three years and I don’t think anything can take me off guard. My wife and I feel much better, after covid our family started visiting us. We even got used to moving every year, which doesn’t seem normal to me, but my wife enjoys it, so at least someone (smile).

Within two years, from the second league to the national team. The manager predicted it, David Jurásek didn’t believe itVideo:

So can he imagine you staying in the country?

I don’t like it there that much (laughs). Fine for a few years, but probably not permanently.

Has there been talk of returning to the Czech Republic?

Now I want to stay in England as long as possible. If I had to leave and if health, age and performances allow it, I would like to try another western competition. And if not, then warm up somewhere warm.

In Slavia, you experienced pressure in the fight for the title, can it be at least somewhat compared to the current situation?

Absolutely not, not at all. No one can possibly imagine what we are experiencing now when we are fighting for our bare lives. It’s crazy when you go into a match and you know you have to get a result. Something completely different from when we played for the title in the Czech Republic. It can’t be compared. We had a great team with Slavia and we knew that even if the match didn’t go well, we could still win because we have more quality than the opponent.

Has there ever been a debate that the solution to the crisis can be an impulse in the form of a new coach and, logically, the departure of the experienced David Moyes?

I can’t say from my position, I don’t sit on the board. This is a question for our future owner (entrepreneur Daniel Křetínský, editor’s note).

No such information reached the players?

Of course, there were some reports from the media that we have to win, otherwise the coach is in danger. With Everton, with Nottingham or most recently with Aston Villa. But I read an interview where David Moyes said he had a great relationship with the board.

How do you perceive coach Moyes?

Pure pragmatist. The end justifies the means. I have probably never seen such an orthodox pragmatist, when he gives results at the expense of everything, maybe sometimes even the game. There is a lot of pressure on him and he is putting pressure on us as well.

It means absolutely nothing to me.

A year and a half ago, you said in one of the interviews that people from the club were joking so that you would intercede for them with the Czech owner. Does this still apply?

You know, I mainly focus on giving the best possible performance on the pitch. I try to let these things go, but the jokes fall here and there.

On Friday, you will enter the qualification for EURO 2024 at home with Poland. In what condition did you arrive at the national team meeting?

I haven’t played the last three or four games with a heel injury, so I’m a little out, but it’s nothing special. In general I feel good physically, I’ve been running and training a lot in the last week. I gradually add to the full load and we will see what it will be enough for.

When was it decided that you would actually join?

I got the final green light from West Ham this Saturday when I did the exit training that they needed at the club to release me. This is how we planned it from the beginning. Hats off to the club, we could also say that I’m injured, that we have a tough schedule ahead of us, that they need me and I’m not going anywhere. They behaved really well.

The groin you had surgery on last spring isn’t working anymore?

Not at all, there’s no reason. I don’t have the slightest problem with my groin at the moment. I have to knock, the surgery went great, so great.

Therefore, you should be ready for an important part of the season for the club and the national team.

I hope so. It depends on how the heel heals now. There are players who have problems with it for a month, but also for half a year. It’s a very unusual injury, but I believe everything will be sorted by Friday and I will start against Poland. We’ll see, maybe it will be heard in training and I won’t be there at all.

There are six newcomers in the national team, how did the introduction go?

Classically, the guys will have some kind of ritual on the field where they introduce themselves and say something funny if they can, and we leave them alone. They are here because they have quality and form. Of course, the team got a lot younger, that was not usual. I look a bit like my grandfather (laughs). There are only a few players older than me, most by a few months, and Tomáš Vaclík is unrivaled. But it’s not possible to play only with footballers around 20 years old. You must have experienced players and the axis of the team. I don’t think there will be any problem with us, we will create a good atmosphere in the cabin.

Didn’t you at least partially accept the position of mentor?

There is no need and I don’t feel up to such a role. Of course, I will be happy to advise or share my experience. But to go to someone 24 hours a day and teach him how to play football? Certainly not. The boys are in the national team. On the other hand, if I see that someone is not giving it 100 percent, I will be the first to shout.

In addition to Poland, Albania, the Faroe Islands and Moldova await you in the group. What was going through your mind after the lottery?

If we don’t advance, we’re total morons. It may sound funny, but we all perceive our position. The football world is leveling off and there are no easy games ahead of us. We don’t know what to expect from Moldova, what field they will send us to. The Faroe Islands will also be unpleasant for the artist in the summer, they beat Turkey there. Albania is also unpleasant. We have to show quality, deal with everything and advance.

Great quality. They have a lot of players from leading teams and leagues, at the tip of course the second or third best striker in the world. It’s hard to say what tactics he will start with. They have a new coach, everyone will want to show off. We know a certain formation, we expect more attacking football and pressing. At the World Cup, they complained that they don’t play very offensively. But the goal is to get points at home in Eden.

Would you find a striker like Robert Lewandowski in the Premier League?

According to the video, he reminds me of Harry Kane, although he is a bit more of a bomber for me. Both have excellent headers, right and left foot. He knows how to work for a team, go to the spaces between. This is a highly valued trait in a striker.

The first training session of the national football team in 2023Video:

Then there is another big event. The Conference League final is played in Eden at the beginning of June, West Ham are currently in the quarter-finals of this competition. How big a challenge is it to fight your way to Prague, even with regard to your Slavic past?

Huge, the biggest this season. We’re in trouble, but it could end up being an amazing vintage. It doesn’t matter if you finish twelfth in the league, the main thing is to be at least seventeen. If we win the Conference League on top of that, it will be an amazing season and everyone will forget what happened in the Premier League. In addition, next year we would automatically be in the Europa League.

There is no need to talk about motivation.

Exactly, she’s huge. The finale in Eden is an imaginary cherry on top. Me, Tomáš Souček and everyone else will do our best for it. Lift the cup over your head in Prague, with West Ham, in front of your wife, children, family? A life goal for me.

In theory, you can run into Fiorentina and partner from the national team Antonín Barák. Has there been any peaking yet?

I just told him that he must have bribed Vlaďa Šmicer, who as the ambassador of the whole year was drawing lots for the rest of the elimination phase, to put Fiorentina in the lighter division. We don’t have quite the opponents I wanted. But we are still among the favorites. And actually I would like someone else to be in the final (laughs). Fiorentina has a great squad and any of the Czechs would be disappointed after the match. I wouldn’t want that, so maybe it’s better if only one team advances.

What strong relationships do you maintain with the people in Slavia?

I was just there for rehab on Tuesday. I am in contact with Houšťa (assistant coach Zdeněk Houštecký), with brothers Teclík (forward Stanislav Tecl) and Mas (defender Lukáš Masopust) and other boys. Also with Aleš Píta or physiotherapist Ludvík Maier. I’m very happy with how we maintain our relationship.

And what do you think about Slavia’s current performances and the fight for the Czech title?

It will be decided between Slavia and Sparta. I haven’t seen much of Plzeň lately, but I heard that they are not doing very well and are dropping points, especially at home, which is a problem. Sparta made a run like we needed at West Ham, maybe half would have been enough. The concept with coach Brian Prisk appears to be bearing fruit. There are a lot of new players in Slavia, but the boys have great quality, they lost a few games, but they will get out of it again and I believe in them.


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