West Ham captain Mark Noble has stressed the club have had a “great season” no matter what as they wait to see if it ends with a place in Europe.
Victory on Sunday at Stoke in their final Premier League game of 2015-16 would have guaranteed Europa League football for the Hammers next term at the Olympic Stadium.
But after going 1-0 ahead, Slaven Bilic’s men ended up losing 2-1, finishing seventh in the table and requiring Manchester United to beat Crystal Palace in Saturday’s FA Cup final to give them a place in the continental competition.
Noble, quoted on West Ham’s official website, said of the Stoke match: “We have to take this result in context and that is we’ve had a great season.
“We have come on a long way.
“I’ve always said this season was probably the most important in the club’s history.
“Moving stadiums we had to make sure we were a solid Premier League team and we did that midway through the season.
“We had a small chance at Champions League which was great, and now we just have to wait and see what happens in the cup final.”
Michail Antonio put West Ham ahead in the 23rd minute and they were dominant from then – failing to convert some good chances along the way – until Stoke levelled through a Giannelli Imbula strike shortly after half-time.
Potters goalkeeper Shay Given then made a point-blank double save between two goal-line clearances from team-mate Glenn Whelan, who on the second occasion hacked away a ball that was inches from fully crossing after coming off Cheikhou Kouyate.
Mame Diouf subsequently wrapped up Stoke’s come-from-behind triumph with an 88th-minute header.
Noble admitted he had been left baffled at how the visitors did not come away with a victory rather than a loss.
“The amount of chances we had was unbelievable – how we haven’t won that game I do not know,” the 29-year-old said.
“I think they probably had two, maybe three shots all game, so it’s disappointing.
“I think we had four cleared off the line!
“We probably should have finished them off in the first half; we just didn’t have that quality. Then set pieces undid us.”