At the end of the January transfer window, West Ham co-owner David Gold famously told fans ‘Don’t go to bed’, before a big fat nothing happened. But the morning after the August transfer window shut, West Ham fans would have woken up wondering if they were still dreaming.
In short, manager Slaven Bilic has played a blinder. His deals, signing Nottingham Forest winger Michail Antonio and Hull striker Nikica Jelavic, and landing Barcelona midfielder Alex Song and Chelsea winger Victor Moses on loan, mean the new manager for the club’s new era has now bought an entire new team of players
A good window can make all the difference to a team’s season, as West Ham found to their cost in 2002-03, the first time the window was introduced. Injuries to Paolo Di Canio and Freddie Kanoute saw the club’s first-choice strikers sidelined for lengthy periods of time, leaving 19-year-old Jermain Defoe to carry the attacking burden. And we all know how that season turned out. Mercifully West Ham’s failure to do business this January did not come at such a heavy price, but somewhere in a parallel universe, there is the reality where Emmanuel Adebayor did sign, the team had a better end of season, and Sam Allardyce received a new contract.
In the real world, however, none of those things happened, which is why it is Bilic who was trusted with the spending money — and to spectacular effect. The signing of his fellow Croat, Jelavic, is clearly his pick. A background playing in Austria and Scotland may not be the most accurate of form guides, but the 30-year-old has a decent amount of Premier League experience now and was a fan favourite at Everton before joining Hull, so knows what is expected of him and has shown he is up to it.
Also, having given him his professional (Hajduk Split) and international debuts, Bilic clearly re gards Jelavic as someone he can trust. Antonio has been around the block quite a bit for a 25-yearold, but started every league game for Forest last season and was named their player of the year. He has continued that form this season, and could turn out to be inspired business.
Song arrived on loan amid much fanfare last season, initially making a huge impact, before going off the boil. When fit, however, he can make a huge difference, and hopefully a better atmosphere at the club than last season might inspire him to the heights again. Moses is an enigma — a headline grabber at Crystal Palace whose career has spluttered since, but if he can find his form, the thought of him and Dimitri Payet in the same team will have Irons fans drooling. Bilic has been given the money and opportunity to stamp his mark on the team and shape it as he wants — and he has taken it. Dead wood has been removed — from now on, this is officially Slaven Bilic’s Claret and Blue Army. The adventure starts here.