Ask West Ham players about Europe in July and their thoughts would likely turn to sunshine and beaches, not training pitches and metatarsals.
But that’s the prospect facing West Ham – and Saturday’s opponents Everton – if they qualify for the Europa League via the Fair Play League, which awards places for good behaviour and respect for officials.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce warned of the consequences of playing in next season’s Europa League but insisted that it was still a great experience for the players.
Allardyce said: “If we’re in the Europa League then our first game will be on July 2 and there’s still a lot of finalising a planning to be done for pre-season.
“If we get knocked out in the first two rounds then we have to find friendlies from somewhere. If we go all the way then it goes all the way to the Thursday before the season kicks off. It will be a bit of a disruption – but you’ve got to go for it.”
Competing in Europe often results in inconsistency in the domestic league. One team who has suffered is West Ham’s opponents Everton who have struggled at home despite a reasonable campaign in Europe.
Allardyce said. “It affects the smaller teams far greater than the bigger teams because the bigger teams gear themselves towards planning for Europe every year.
"When I was at Bolton we managed to cope. We got to the last 32 of the UEFA cup and finished eighth in the league. It can be managed but its extremely difficult winning a game on the Sunday after you’ve played on the Thursday.”