So West Ham have their new manager. It’s Slaven Bilic, who played for the Hammers in the mid-nineties and has had an impressive managerial career so far, notably when managing the Croatian national team – his team.
I’m really pleased about this appointment. Bilic was a very good centre back in his time and was excellent for West Ham, for a couple of seasons, before Everton poached him. Not only was he a quality player, but he was passionate. He got a few red cards in the cause, but the fans really took to him, because he cared.
So he understands the West Ham way. This is often mocked. Alex Ferguson dismissed it – West Ham was always a fixture he says he looked forward to. Ie: we would be easy to beat, playing attacking football, leaving open defensive spaces. And yes, that was a problem for the Hammers over the decades. But at least, when we tried tried to play good football, the fans were entertained and remembered the beautiful side of the game. If it was just allied with some defensive steel, it could be quite successful. 1986 was the best ever example, when we came third in the First Division (now the Premier League). There were hard men at the back – Alvin Martin, Tony Gale, Ray Stewart. And a brilliant goal keeper, Phil Parkes. Up front we had Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee banging in the goals.Out wide the buzzing Mark Ward and legendary Alan Devonshire – Devo. In centre-midfield, Alan Dickens did a decent impression of recently-retired Trevor Brooking. It wasn’t built upon, unfortunately, but it is a season we old lags will always remember.
Can Slaven replicate that, as we prepare for the move into the Olympic Stadium in 2016? I think, if he gets a budget for players, he can. He has the passion, the understanding, the intelligence, the commitment to good football. And as a fine player himself, as well as being an outstanding international manager quite recently, he will have the respect of the players.
So, I’m succumbing to summer optimism, before, no doubt, it all goes horribly wrong when the season starts! Or maybe not…