This is a crucial season for West Ham and it is vital we get off to a good start. Getting some points on the board early doors can set the tone for the whole campaign, and it will be important for Slaven Bilic on a personal level because we know how impatient West Ham fans can be.
I’ve already heard some grumbling about how we’ve played in the Europa League games. None of us were happy about what happened in Malta but I just wish the moaners would chill out. The Thursday night matches we have played so far have effectively been a glorified pre-season and for me our season really starts against Arsenal. You have to remember we have just changed managers and it is going to take time for Bilic to really make his mark on the team.
We need to let the players get to grips with each other and with the manager, his way of doing things and his vision for what he wants to happen on the pitch. If we don’t get the results early, I hope we can all bite our tongues a bit. That said the home games against Leicester City, AFC Bournemouth and Newcastle United could be significant and a great opportunity to get some points in the bag as it is difficult to see us getting much from our trips to Arsenal and Liverpool, where we never win.
One of the big features of our fine start to last season was how our new signings started remarkably well, and hopefully the players we’ve been able to bring in this summer will do the same. Having said that the Premier League is a tremendously tough league. It is draining both physically and mentally, especially when you first arrive because it is just so relentlessly intense. Again, if we don’t see the best of the likes of Dimitri Payet or Pedro Obiang right away we have to be patient and not get on their backs.
I know how the reaction of the fans filters down to the players when they are edgy. Confidence on the pitch is everything and we need to do our bit to help keep spirits high, especially at Upton Park.
Whenever I interview players the usual party line is whatever happens outside doesn’t affect them or they don’t let it get to them but I know from what’s said off-camera and from interviewing ex-players that it does. All the uncertainty last season with Sam didn’t help – neither did the way the fans were on the back of Kevin Nolan. Fans expect Premier League players to be able to take the stick because they earn so much money but it just doesn’t work like that.
Moving on, I’ve been pretty happy with the signings we have made this summer but I’d still like to see us sign another striker and I’d love it if we signed Charlie Austin. We need someone upfront who is a proven goalscorer and that’s what he is. I hope he proves me wrong but Mauro Zarate, for me, isn’t a 20-goal-a-season type of player and we can’t just rely on Diafra Sakho. Despite scoring a cracker against Southampton and the winner at White Hart Lane I’m yet to be convinced by Modibo Maiga and Andy Carroll isn’t back until at least September and probably October.
Austin works hard, tracks back and has a proven record of scoring goals at the top level. Whatever happens I’m hoping it won’t be as stressful or as contenFresh start: Slaven Bilic will want to build on the feel-good factor tious this season as it was towards the end of the last one. West Ham fans like Slaven Bilic and that should cut him the bit of slack that wasn’t afforded to Sam Allardyce. Perhaps he will be more shrewd in trying to placate the fans and tell them what they want to hear. In short he needs to play the game better than Big Sam did.