EXCLUSIVE: ‘Ballsy’ Bilic gets it right on all fronts

SHEP graphicIt is only a week ago that some extreme West Ham fans were calling for Slaven Bilic’s head.

There were those media pundits (some in Sam Allardyce’s social circle no doubt!) who were stirring things up and suggesting it wouldn’t be long before the club were pining for the return of the 60-year-old former Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn boss!

We live in an ever more bizarre world of knee-jerk reactions, especially in football. But to make such suggestions – even before a ball had been kicked in the Premier League – was absolutely bonkers.

slavbadgeYes, the pre-season results and displays were erratic. And we exited from the Europa League. But Bilic used these games to do what any decent new manager does: assess all the players at his disposal; come up some plans; and then find a blend to hit the ground running.

And how the Hammers hit the ground, shocking most (perhaps even themselves) by winning 2-0 at Arsenal.

While the Gunners looked under-cooked West Ham were perfectly prepared tactically, physical and mentally.

It didn’t take long for some of the Hammers fans at the Emirates to strike up a chorus of Super Slav.

While it would be similarly knee jerk and naïve to suggest that Bilic has banished all the doubts and doubters  -opening day results often deceive -there is no question the Croatian has stamped his personality on the team and the club.

During the game he cut a calm, authoritative figure, as he offered the off instruction on the touchline. Instantly he looked The Boss.

After the game, Bilic then spoke like a real leader not least when he explained that while he acknowledged it was a risk playing 16 year old Reece Oxford, he had assured the player that it would be he, Bilic, not the youngster who would shoulder the blame  if things went badly.

That is the kind of strength of character that inspires. It also showed that Bilic has balls.

There is no way his predecessor would have picked Oxford for a game like that. Nor devised a game plan which while set up to knock Arsenal out of their  stride also had the added dimension of attacking threat.

In that respect the signing of playmaker Dimitri Payet, hardly an Allardyce sort of player, looks inspired.

Refreshingly honest

There is also a refreshing sense of honesty about Bilic.

Instead of trying to bury a story about a fall out with Morgan Amalfatino he explained at a press conference this week what had happened and why the player has been banished from the first team squad.

Bilic is the sort of manager who likes to put and arm around his players but he will not have the p*%s taken out of him. At a stroke he has asserted his discipline over the squad in how he has handled Amalafatino and indeed managed a restless Kevin Nolan.

By giving Mark Noble the captain’s armband he also looks to have breathed some life into the midfielder. An inspired move. In a week since the real stuff has got underway Bilic then looks the real deal. Already there is an aura about him.

But in many ways a better assessment of where West Ham are under Bilic comes at home to Leicester on Saturday a game  that despite the Foxes winning start last week  the Hammers are expected to win.

Bilic does not strike as a man who will have allowed complacency to have crept in after last weeks joyous shock at the Emirates. We shall see.

But it would seem that after all the procrastination  of who should success Allardyce, Bilic, as this column argued from the start, was the best man all along. Its still very early days but one can’t help felling Bilic has found his spiritual home as a club manager and West Ham a spiritual leader.

‘Rotten apple’

BartonThere was some logic to West Ham flirting with the idea of signing Joey Barton.

After leaving QPR Barton has been touting himself about to various clubs as a free agent and one willing to take a haircut on his previous £70,000 a week wages. I gather Barton was asking for £20,000 a week.

So from an economic point of view to bolster midfield options t there was a valid case to sign the soon to be 32-year-old, especially as there could yet be some departures from that department of the squad.

Slaven Bilic has admitted he likes what Barton can do as a player.

But without going into the obvious, other, er, aspects of the player’s make-up, posed a massive question.

Clearly there was a big risk Barton could have become a rotten apple around the club.

So in another example of his savvy Bilic, took on board the feelings of some fans and more to the point some concerned voices in the dressing room and pragmatically opted to avoid signing a potential problem.

It was the right thing to do.


About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

2 comments on “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Ballsy’ Bilic gets it right on all fronts

  1. I think that people have their time and Sam’s came and, mercifully, went. He did bring some stability to a club that not that many years ago had had fewer managers in its history than just about all of them, and especially given the not so huge budgets that West Ham has compared with the megamillionnaires from everywhere and beyond!

    The man never attempted to woo us as fans and the football we played showed that he had no interest in the West Ham school of old. He was paid, in his mind, to stabilise us and keep us in the division.

    This pre-season has been very difficult. Slaven has come in with a certain degree of fait accomplit and has had to accept the changes that occurred without really having been able to do that much about influencing them. I;’m sorry that Downing left but in a game that’s more about money than dedication to your club, it made sense for a man with the chance to go home, to do that and pick up a hefty pay cheque in the process. To expect Slav t take any blame for that is ridiculous. He wants to do things his way – and I believe the West Ham way – and he deserves the time and our support as he tries to bring a new footballing philosophy to Upton Park.

    It was a brave decision to opt out of Europe as he did and even braver to play young Reece Oxford, especially in the role he played him.

    The jury’s out and Slav and WHU have a long way to go this season before anything is learned, but I like what I see at the moment and I I think Payet is this season’s Cresswell.

    Here’s hoping! Good luck for Leicester (and apart from in their games against us, good luck to Leicester).

  2. Of course all these pundits are in Hippos social circle,why do you think they all want to kick us in the bollox every chance they get! 😉

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