I was a staunch advocate for the club’s perusal, and capturing, of Michail Antonio from Nottingham Forest this summer. I happily admit a large portion of that is down to the fact he was in the year above me at our secondary school and consequently having played football in, and out, of school with him. Add to that he was a brilliant character, I was all for it!
Now though, we find ourselves in a rather strange situation. Antonio hardly featured in the games played up to our clash against Manchester United, playing only half an hour during our win at The Etihad and a few minutes against West Brom. This has left a majority of fans wondering what on earth is going on when we’re not playing a winger we paid £7million for.
On the face of it, I understand the confusion. Why pay any fee for any player when you don’t play him, right? Only, Antonio is not any player. Lets not get ahead of ourselves and make grandiose statements, but, he has everything he needs to make it in the Premier League. He just needs to pull all of those components together now, which is where Bilic and his coaching staff come into play.
The main thing he obviously has is the physicality for the Premier League, with his frame, strength and speed. Many people will have seen his highlight reels from his time playing in the Championship and noticed his ability to breeze past players as if they weren’t there, as well as some technically brilliant goals. He had started to add those goals to his game, which saw him leave Nottingham Forest with the impressive stats, for a winger, of a goal every 2.8 games.
The main component, especially in this situation, that Antonio possesses is patience. At the age of 25 he has worked his way from non-league football to the Football League, now finding himself at a Premier League club that is currently in the top 10 of the table.
Four years ago he was playing League One football. This, is not down to luck. It is down to hard work, patience and talent. If we can all show a fraction of the patience that Antonio himself has shown to get here and now the patience to wait for his chance in the Premier League, then I am confident we will all be looking forward to seeing more from him at West Ham.