West Ham manager Slaven Bilić has signalled his intention to not sit back and rely on away goals to get past Romanian opponents Astra Giurgiu in the Europa League on Thursday night. Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Croat said “We are not going to protect the away goal. It gives you an advantage but you cannot hang on for 90 mins”, before reiterating his desire to see his side play “a normal game”.
This will come as welcome news to Irons fans heading to the London Stadium on Thursday, hoping for a repeat of the 3-0 win over NK Domžale a few weeks ago.
However, Bilić is wary of West Ham’s Romanian opponents, acknowledging that his players must not underestimate the Romanian champions, as “they beat us last year and it is not job done”, also referencing their national team’s exploits in this the European Championships this past summer.
Nonetheless, Slaven cut a confident figure in his presser, stating unequivocally that he feels his players “have had enough time to recover from Sunday”, and that they should take confidence from home victories against Bournemouth and NK Domžale at the London Stadium. Bilić also appeared to attribute some of the team’s success in these games to the atmosphere created by the fans at their new ground, voicing his pleasure at their efforts, he said; “we can feel them [the fans] and I want that to continue’.
In addition, the Manager also suggested that the fans will have the “strongest possible side” on the field to cheer on, allowing them to rest assured that the Europa League will be taken much more seriously this season.
This press conference showed a level of confidence that isn’t always seen from West Ham managers, so to hear the boss come out swinging in such a fashion will be welcome news indeed to the Irons faithful. Bilić is already exceptionally well regarded by the Hammers, but with categorical statements of intent like “I expect to win” – he can only endear himself further.