Why West Ham boss Slaven Bilic deserves a medal

by Andy Dillon / 28 October 2016, 14:01

The Sack Race columnist Andy Dillon (@andydillon70) argues that West ham boss Slaven Bilic deserves not only a new contract but the manager of the year award already for everything he has had to put up with this season.

SLAVEN BILIC will have plenty of time to ponder life as West Ham head north to Everton for Sunday’s Premier League match.

It’s probably a big relief to the Hammers’ boss that he finds himself on the road to an away match and away from the controversial London Stadium at the moment.

And maybe it’s time people in football took a few moments to consider what life is like for the most hard-pressed manager in the land at the moment.

The fact West Ham go to Goodison Park chasing a fourth successive win is a miracle given what Bilic is having to put up with at present.

Crowd violence among a large hooligan element at a club with a reputation for a rough edge is the main headache overshadowing a gradual turnaround in the team’s fortunes.

Any manager will tell you (on the quiet) that they have to tread a fine line between condemning trouble and putting too much distance between yourself and the fans in situations like this.

It calls for diplomacy and natural accusations of soft-soaping a big issue and one which is the sharp point for West Ham at a key moment in its history.

The aggro on Wednesday against Chelsea was predicted and a return to the traditional animosity between two clubs which have taken to modern football in starkly contrasting ways.

Chelsea have the bonus of a mega-rich Russian benefactor in Roman Abramovich who has poured millions of pounds into his club to build a team of stars and bring home regular trophies.

Not that the West London club’s penchant for sacking managers is a quality to be proud of.

A new stadium on the site of the current Stamford Bridge means Chelsea will embrace the future while keeping a firm grip on the past - the history of the club remains intact.

Bilic and his squad have been parachuted into the new 57,000 seater London Stadium - a ground built for athletics which does not suit football whatsoever regardless of what vice-chairman Karren Brady tells us.

From one of football’s most cherished, cramped and gritty grounds to a concrete and steel ‘arena’ - complete with popcorn.

It’s a wrench too far for many fans and Bilic has had to straddle this issue week in, week out while trying to put together a team that must win games to help make their new place feel like ‘home’.

Even Bilic has admitted he thinks the pitch is too far from the fans to make the London Stadium a proper football ground.

There have been apparent misdeeds by his players, with injured striker Andy Carroll and keeper Darren Randolph still under an in-house investigation into straying well over the curfew when given Bilic’s blessing to have a night out despite a 3-0 defeat just 24 hours before.

He’s had a misfiring star in Dimitri Payet, only just coming to life and starting to replicate the form of last season.

The £20.5 million club record signing Andre Ayew has not managed a full game yet because of injury and after a dreadful start to the campaign, three weeks ago Bilic was among the favourites to be sacked.

Groundless stories that West Ham had cancelled contract talks with him even though none had or were due to take place has only added to the pressure and speculation which would be tough to bear even for a one-time tough, uncompromising centre half.

He’s even had stick for his hair weave for Christ’s sake!

All around Bilic there are rows and rucks:

Yet he has handled it all without raising his voice once or losing control in one of his many press conferences.

It’s only October but Bilic deserves a medal - to go with the tin hat he needs to wear too.

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