Written by Fareham Hammer @farehamhammer
He’s the man, he’s the man, he’s the man, Slaven Bilic most certainly is West Ham’s man and so he should be! Whether we like him or his style of football or not, Sam Allardyce did an incredible job as manager of West Ham. When Allardyce arrived at The Club we had just been relegated. We were like a boxer who had been knocked out, totally demoralised. Out for the count! Allardyce with the help of Kevin Nolan, picked The Club up by the proverbial jockstraps and stabilized them. He changed the mentality of The Club.
Big Sam’s spell in charge of us, reminded me so much of George Graham’s spell at Arsenal. Like West Ham, Arsenal were virtually down and out at the time of Graham’s arrival. George Graham set about making Arsenal difficult to beat. The football bored the pants of the supporters, Arsenal became very difficult to beat. Often drawing matches or grinding out ugly 1-0 wins. Hence the cry from the Arsenal Supporters at the time of “1-0 to The Arsenal” “It was George Graham”, who laid the foundations for the “sexy football”, which Arsenal became so associated with under Arsene Wenger. It took Wenger three or four seasons, till he got Arsenal to really turn on the style of football, which was so pleasing to the eye. Not just to Arsenal Fans but to neutrals as well.
The reason why it took Wenger time to turn things round totally, was because some players who played for Graham, were not suitable for the style of football he wanted to play. Bit by bit, he moved players on and brought others in. Till he got the perfect balance, enabling him to deliver the sexy football he so craved. I believe Slaven Bilic is in the exactly the same position as Arsene Wegner found himself in at Arsenal, when he took over. He knows EXACTLY what players and style of football he wants. But he is going to take another season or so, before he can deliver the football he so desires on a regular basis. Football on the deck, flowing inventive football-football the West Ham Way.
Some will say at times last season, the football was as dire as when Big Sam was in charge. True! But that was down to a few factors. Losing the hugely creative influence of Payet and a mass of injuries. As a result we did not have enough players left in the squad, who could play football, the way Slaven Bilic loves to play. Some will say I’m biased, as far as the hugely charismatic Bilic is concerned. That does not mean that I think he has not got any faults, he has which I will get to in a minute.
Let’s face it his first season was something dreams are made of. Slaven Bilic, arrived at the club, with a reputation of playing sexy football. Largely due to the wonderful football his Croatian team played while he managed them. Being an ex-player of the club, he had an advantage over someone who had no previous connection with us. As fans were always more likely to be patient with one of their own. Well that first season will forever live with me. Winning at Manchester City, Arsenal and at Liverpool! For God sake!! The last time West Ham had beaten Liverpool in ANY game at Anfield was 1963. When The Beatles produced their first album, Bob Dylan produced his classic, Blowing in The Wind and President John Kennedy was assassinated. Many of us were not even born them! Living the dream?? Tell me about it!
The second season was always going to be a tough ask. We had the move to The London Stadium, Payet causing huge unrest, injuries and a poor transfer window did not help things. Then there was Bilic’s, disastrous attempts at playing Antonio at right back, at times taking too long to make substitutions and then getting his tactics wrong. No he did not lose the dressing room and the rest! He made mistakes! He is HUMAN! Do you know what the beauty of it all is? Slaven Bilic unlike Sam Allardyce, is not egotistical and acknowledges his mistakes and learns from them. A very humble man is our Slaven. Although not a soft touch as Morgan Amalifanto and Alvaro Arbeloa found out. There is only one king of the West Ham jungle and that is Slaven Bilic. Last season was a tough one for everybody associated with The Club. Bilic, players, The Board and of course us the fans. “What does not break you makes you stronger in life”. I’m certain that will be the case with West Ham, cool heads are required. We are in good hands with the man, the man, the man… West Ham man Slaven Bilic. We are more than a football club, we’re a way of life!