Coufal: Winning mentality helping West Ham's CL charge
Vladimir Coufal knows what it takes to win league titles and it is that winning mentality that he hopes can help get West Ham over the line as they bid to bring Champions League football to the London
Vladimir Coufal knows what it takes to win league titles and it is that winning mentality that he hopes can help get West Ham over the line as they bid to bring Champions League football to the London Stadium next season.
The battle to finish in the Premier League's top four continues to gather pace and the Hammers' 3-2 win against Leicester last weekend blew the race wide open, leaving David Moyes' side fourth and just one point behind the Foxes in third.
However, Chelsea and Liverpool are firmly on the coattails of West Ham - who face Newcastle at St James' Park, live on Sky Sports on Saturday (kick-off 12.30pm) - and with seven games to go the pressure is firmly on as they look to secure a place in the Champions League for the first time in the club's history.
Coufal, who arrived in east London last October in a £5m deal with Slavia Prague, knows what it takes to get over the line, winning two league titles with the Czech club, and he's hoping that experience, and the similar experiences of the likes of Tomas Soucek, Jesse Lingard at Manchester United and Declan Rice with England, can prove invaluable for the Hammers between now and the end of the season.
'Winning mentality spreading throughout squad'
“Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal have both brought something else to the Club: complete humility. They’re happy to be here, driving it on.”
"I try to bring a winning mentality to every session," he told Sky Sports.
"Nobody likes losing and when you see this winning mentality in training it spreads throughout the squad and after, when this happens you can try to win every game."
He added: "Jesse Lingard came from the biggest team in England and he brings something different. His quality is unbelievable, and I can't understand why he didn't play for Manchester United or get a chance. He's an unbelievable player and I'm really happy to be able to play with him.
"It's the same with Declan Rice. Declan is maybe the best number six in the world, but he can still improve, and he knows it. I am just glad I can play with them, with Tomas Soucek, with Mark Noble and some very experienced players.
"It's been a beautiful season so far and everyone is hoping it will continue like this. Our goal is to qualify for Europe for next season and we are hoping we can finish the job."
Coufal on Tomas Soucek helping him settle when he arrived last October...
"It was a big help to have Tomas at the club, especially when I first started here.
"He helped me so much and I am really grateful to him, but now I’m more independent and I don’t need him as much as I did at the beginning.
"At the start, he explained everything to me about the club, the English mentality and the country. He also showed me a few things like where I can go with my wife and the kids and I am very grateful."
'Brilliant season just the start for West Ham'
West Ham's incredible rise has been arguably the story of the season.
Finishing 16th last year, they are now on the brink of qualifying for Europe's premier club competition in a remarkable turnaround of the club's fortunes.
But Coufal, who is set to make his 30th appearance of the season for the Hammers, believes this is just the start for the east London club.
"We want to build on this and build up the club so it's very important for us to get European football for next season," he said.
"When you play European football, when you qualify through your domestic league, the prestige and the respect for your club rises.
"It's very important for us and we'll try to do everything we can to get to the Champions League.
When asked if this is just the start for West Ham, he said: "I hope so. I hope this is a springboard for future success.
"I hope next season could be even better."
Coufal on his own form...
"My form is not bad, actually, but I believe in myself. I know I could be better. My statistics could be better, and I could give more help to the team. I always want to be the best and I am very demanding of myself."
'Moyes the reason for West Ham's success'
So, what's behind West Ham's success?
Moyes, speaking to Sky Sports last weekend, praised the team spirit being fostered among his 'band of brothers' and while Coufal admits he was surprised by the "family atmosphere" at West Ham, he puts the team's success firmly down to the manager.
"To be honest I didn't expect the team spirit to be so good," he said. "I was really surprised because what I'd heard is that when you go and play football abroad, it's more about individuals, but here it's very different.
"Everyone gets on really well, there is a good atmosphere and we are like a big family. We have a goal and we will do everything to achieve it."
Speaking about Moyes, Coufal added: "He is one of the main reasons we are playing like we are playing.
"He is a big personality and he has big respect from the players and our group and now, he is teaching us how to play more effectively and how to win. He is a great person and everyone here is glad to have him."
Coufal warns against complacency
Up next for the Hammers is a crucial trip to St James' Park to face Newcastle, who are fighting to secure their Premier League status for next season.
West Ham head into the game having won 32 Premier League points out of a possible 45 in 2021 - a total that has only been bettered by Manchester United (33, who have played a game more) and Manchester City (48, who have played three times more).
However, Coufal has warned against complacency in the final seven games of the season, starting at Newcastle.
"They are going to be very difficult games, especially against Newcastle, who are fighting for safety in the Premier League," he said. "They need every point, but we want to try and win every game, so nothing changes for us."
"We still have our feet on the ground," he added. "We are a club that can beat every team in the Premier League but at the same time you can also lose games in this league. It's very difficult.
"So, when we start to fly in the clouds it's not good for our attitude, but our manager will never allow this to happen to us. In that regard it's easy."
Coufal on the support of the West Ham fans...
"I am pleased that the fans on social media like me and I hope it will continue.
"There may be a few games in a row in the future where I will play badly and afterwards the fans won't like me! I hope this situation doesn’t happen, but you never know.
"Now, I am so glad for this support. It’s very important for me because I came from a small country and a small club when I compare it with England and English clubs.
"Nobody knew me and now I am a big hero for the West Ham fans. I will do everything I can to keep this situation going."
'Champions League qualification sounds beautiful'
West Ham are seven games away from securing a place in the Champions League.
Huge nights potentially against the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus are within touching distance for Coufal and his team-mates.
When talking about his title wins in Czech Republic, Coufal proudly reminds us that he won two league titles with Slavia Prague in 2018/19 and 2019/20 before his arrival at the London Stadium, but where would helping West Ham reach the Champions League rank?
"It would be an unbelievable achievement," Coufal said.
"West Ham haven't played in the Champions League in their history. We could be the first and that sounds beautiful when I say it.
"It's a brilliant competition - it's magical - and I can promise we will do everything we can to reach the Champions League."
Watch Newcastle vs West Ham on Sky Sports Premier League from 12pm on Saturday; kick-off 12.30pm
- ^ Hammers' 3-2 win against Leicester last weekend (www.skysports.com)
- ^ praised the team spirit being fostered among his 'band of brothers' (www.skysports.com)