I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Carroll for Sky Sports a few days after he scored the winner against Chelsea, and it was refreshing to hear what he had to say about Slaven Bilic and the club.
He really is a downto-earth guy. He told me how he wasn’t surprised that the arrival of the new manager gave everyone a big lift. He did point out though that during his time at West Ham there has never been a problem in the dressing room and that there has always been a good team spirit. The big difference, he told me, is that the fans took to Slaven instantly and that has led to a completely different vibe and atmosphere in the ground. He said it is ‘unbelievable’ on the pitch, so much so that they can barely hear themselves shout to each other.
I can completely see where he is coming from. Last season, Allardyce would say the atmosphere was toxic at home and the players were hesitant on the ball but you can see now that players are full of confidence. Sure there’s been a few errors but they are playing with confidence and trying things out. When you are playing with confidence, you make things happen, you get points and win games.
I’m just hoping we can replicate our away form, excluding Watford, get plenty more points on the board in the build up to Christmas before kicking on in the New Year and doing something special. Andy also talked about his latest injury, and I put to him that Slaven seems to think he can go longterm without serious injury and Andy told me he also believes this. He told me that they have changed his training schedule so he doesn’t have to train everyday. It’s not that he doesn’t want to but it’s what he is being told to do.
This season because we have more strength in depth and the summer buys have been phenomenal, we’ve not had to rush Andy back into the team like we have after his previous injuries. But whenever he returns to training from injury and gets back into the squad and first team, he has a huge impact on the team. He knows this but he also told me about some pretty dark days he’s had when he’s been off injured.
He told me he is fully fit and that he wants to start every game but you can see at the moment Bilic is reluctant to start him every week and who can blame him because we have been doing all right without him. I think going forward Slaven will look at our opposition before deciding which strike force to deploy. This is the great thing about West Ham this season, we’ve got a plan B and C.
The biggest thing I took away from my interview with Andy was that whenever he spoke about Slaven, it was clear that he really has this likeability factor about him. He said the players respect him and they did so instantly. He has this aura about him and he is a manager they all look up to because of what he has achieved. From what I’ve seen, he is the type of manager who makes people sit up and take notice when he speaks.
He does have something about him, the players really like him and it would appear he is a brilliant man manager. He doesn’t leave anyone out and the fans love him. The thing is with Slav, and I’ve said this in previous columns, he knows how to play up to the West Ham fans and he always says the right things. There are worse traits in a manger.