Slav: The case for the defence


By Guest blogger Iain Dale from WestHamTilIDie

Sometimes we fans are a fickle lot. Lose three matches on the spin and the players are all rubbish. The manager must go. It’s verging on the ridiculous. We forget previous successes, we forget that much the same team (with one big and rather obvious exception) nearly qualified for the Champions League last season. We forget that moving to a new stadium was always going to make this season more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Heads are called for. The manager is incompetent and every player should be transferred out of the club as soon as practically possible.

What utter tosh.

Sometimes we should be careful what we wish for. Sometimes it really is worth sticking with nurse for fear of something worse, and this is one of those times. Look, I’m not stupid, I recognise that this season has seen some pretty inexplicable things happening at West Ham. We have a manager who was one of the best defenders ever to wear the claret & blue shirt, yet so far this season we have conceded 52 goals. In the whole of last season we conceded 51. We can’t just blame it on injuries and the fact that we have rarely played with the same back four. It goes deeper than that. In part it’s because we haven’t had a regular back four. Sam Byram has never really been given a chance. OK, he has been injured but when he’s fit why not play him so he gets a run in the team? He’s had one bad game and now we are told that he isn’t really rated and will be moved on in the summer. We’re now down to the bare bones in central defence with the injury to Winston Reid. So why did we loan out both the Reeces? Ask me another.

Do I lay that all at Bilic’s door? Well yes, I suppose I do, but even then, it’s not enough for me to want him gone. I want him to stay because I can see what he is trying to achieve. He buys into West Ham in a way that few other managers could. Do we seriously believe Roberto Mancini would see West Ham as anything other than a stepping stone to get back into managing a Champions League club? His awful defensive way of playing would make us all hanker after Sam Allardyce within a few weeks. And I’m not joking. Has he ever managed a club that didn’t have zillions of spondoolicks for him to waste? No. Could he relate to ‘the West Ham Way’? If you’re David Sullivan or Karren Brady and you’re reading this, rearrange these words into a sentence – touch with a don’t bargepole.

Are there any British managers who we’d be crying out to recruit? I can think of a few who might fancy their chances, and even do a decent job – Garry Monk being one – but what confidence would we have that they’d be any better than what we have got.

The truth is, even though the current team have been frustrating to watch this season, at times, they have played excellent football. The trouble is they haven’t managed it over a ninety minute period. Too often we’ve been brilliant for the first half an hour and then withered away (Watford home, for example). Too often we’ve been useless for the first half and then only sparked into life in the second half (Leicester home). We’ve been consistently inconsistent.

Given that we were at one point firmly anchored in the bottom three, we now hover between 9th and 12th. It could have been oh so different.

It’s not that we’re not scoring goals. We are. We’ve scored 40 in 29, a more than acceptable return in some ways. Our attacking play has sometimes been scintillating, but we didn’t get that 20 goal a striker we were promised in the summer.ย Yes, some of his signings have been ropey – Zaza and Tore are the two most blatant examples, but the fact is they were loan signings. But there’s plenty on the other side of the balance sheet. Obiang. Lanzini. Antonio. Just for starters. All managers buy duds as well as the odd jewel and Bilic is no different.

Who could have foreseen what would happen with Payet. We were all taken in by him. When the situation became intolerable Bilic fronted up and told us exactly what had happened. I don’t think a single one of us blamed anyone other than Payet. So far as I am concerned Bilic did the only thing he could. He didn’t bullshit us, even though he so easily could have.

We’re told that Bilic needs to finish 8th or 9th to get an extension to his contract, and he needs to finish tenth to avoid the sack. Well that’s just plain ridiculous. Given our trials and tribulations I regard anything above 14th as a decent season. My guess is that we’ll finish between 10th and 12th.

In some ways it’s up to the players. If we get to 40 points in the next few games there is a real possibility that they will switch off and mentally go on holiday. For Bilic that could be fatal. So in the end they have got to decide: do we want Slaven as our manager next season, or do we not? We will soon get our answer.

Given our injuries, if I were Slaven I’d change the team around a bit. The first thing I would do is tell Edimilson Fernandes that he had a first team start for every game for the rest of the season. He’s brilliant in every game he’s played. He has an eye for goal, he can beat players, he’s quick, he’s strong and he can tackle. Yes, he has the odd rush to the head, but he’s young and fairly inexperienced. He may be one for the future but he’s also one for the present. If Slaven gives Fernandes a chance he’ll play his guts out for him.

Well that’s the case for the defence, even if I have gone out of my way to point out some of Bilic’s weaknesses. I have every confidence that he will succeed and that if we recruit three or four top class players in the summer and get rid of some of the dead wood we can have a really good season next time around.

It’s the hope that kills you, eh?

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I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called A Blogger on a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at,

I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh.

Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons!

Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter


  • k5kjo says:

    spot on can’t disagree with any of your comments, I also feel it is up to the players with player power on keeping SB, we shall see and I do hope I enjoy the remainder of this season going to all our home games ! COYI

  • Stan The Man says:

    Very good article Iain.I think with this year’s upheaval then Bilic should be allowed another season with less distractions.If he cant improve things then so be it,the majority of us gave him a shot at it over three seasons and he has had long enough to prove what he can or cant do.
    My one reservation is when i see the list of potential new managers right now,the list leaves me cold and all i can see is one coming in as another carcass for the vultures to feed on lol

  • Stan The Man says:

    Bt the way i think the first paragraph is spot on.I remember under the great Ron Greenwwod and John Lyall many times we as fans were a little more than dissatisfied but it never escalated in to “they must go” calls after three defeats on the back of six wins in nine.
    Actually sometimes during their reigns i would have bitten someones hand off for six wins in nine lol

  • Swanie says:

    Yes Stan i find myself going to matches now and thinking sorry chaps i cant give you my support today because you are trying to be part of a global brand.
    No wonder the team are so **** playing in front of miserable ****ers like that lmao

  • Radai Lama..Paid up member of Slavs Chavs. says:

    Its a funny old game,a few weeks ago the talk was of an extended contract,now it is whether we should retain Bilic.
    Look he is far from perfect but who thinks Mancini,Monk or Howe would be any better.Give him next season for sure.
    I have believe it or not never been a fire them quick man,my only manager i despised was Hippo Head and that is because imho the ******** should have never been a West Ham manager in the first place.
    Cue The Sammerettes to come out of the woodwork ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

  • John says:

    Ok so I scrolll down and indeed Iain Dale, not Ian, sorry, has posted on C&H lol. I read the article wetlands and I did think it was a good article and I wholeheartedly agree with it.

    My view is Slaven should reinstate Adrian for the 10 games and give Fernandez a run plus give Sakho a run the moment he is fit. Apart from anything else this will allow them to gauge what we need in the transfer market in the summer.

  • kcockayne says:

    I agree with the sentiment of the article & I am not wanting Bilic to be sacked ; but, there is obviously something lacking within the club & the team. The defence is totally unreliable & often chaotic, even amateurish. It undermines our midfield & attack – often giving it mountains to climb before the game has gotten into its stride. Something must be done about that. What it boils down to is getting better defenders. Simple. I don’t think there is the expertise within the club to “coach out ” the problems. Another problem has been playing certain players out of position. That is down to the manager. Bilic does need to positively demonstrate that he understands the problems & has things under control. It is certainly not out of the question that we will be fighting a relegation battle if he doesn’t.

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