Only in June West Ham co-chairman David Golds hailed the Europa League as a “long and exciting journey” as the squad re-assembled in June.

In the end, it wasn’t long and it wasn’t so exciting as the east Londoners departed the league before the season proper had even started.

They did so not with a bang but with a whimper in Romania where they lost 2-1 on the night (August 6) against Astra Giurgiu and 4-3 on aggregate.

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The bright spot in a lacklustre performance was a goal from debutant Manuel Lanzini.

But two goals in four minutes from Astra skipper Constantin Budescu earned the Romanian side victory on a hot and draining night.

Slaven Bilic took a much-changed team to Europe with a tough away fixture at the Emirates against Arsenal on August 9 when TV audiences will have a chance to assess him, his purchases and his team.

He made 11 changes from the first leg, with three players making their debuts which inevitably resulted in a lack of experience on the field and a lack of ambition to turn round the tie.

Mr Gold said in June: “We know the reward for winning the competition is a place in the Champions League and that is the ­ultimate dream.”

Ultimately, the Europa League became little more than another set of fixtures in the pre-season campaign.

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Bilic, who watched the game from the stands after being sent off in the previous tie, said afterwards about his changes: “When you make a decision you stand by it and you know the consequences.

“I have to make decisions. I said that we had more chances to win with some of the players who stayed in London but I think the boys not only did everything, the effort was there, the quality was there as well until they scored two goals.”