Summers can be dull without West Ham to keep us busy on a Saturday, but this year we had Euro 2016 to focus on to keep our boredom at bay. Although there was one problem; it wasn’t the most thrilling tournament, was it? But it did have one ray of light for a while and that was the pure delight of Slaven Bilic’s punditry on ITV.
For many reasons, this was a great move for Super Slav because it wasn’t just West Ham fans that enjoyed his screen presence. What it did do for his reputation was to show that he’s unlike so many managers in world football and especially the Premier League. It illustrated his casual demeanor perfectly and made a refreshing change to the preened, media savvy managers we’re so used to on TV. Certainly, the standout moment was his celebrations as Dimitri Payet netted against Albania. How many other managers would have had the audacity to climb aboard a table and so openly show their pleasure at Dimi’s excellence?
This gives insight into many elements of Bilic: his love for Payet as both a player and a man, his pure delight at having such an accomplished player at his club and his ability to display passion without being bashful. Another side we saw of Slaven was his tactic-talk. Game aft er game, he had very strong opinions about what players, what systems and what emotions managers should have been employing in games. But it wasn’t a tactical snooze-fest to listen to; his eyes lit up when he talked about it and you could almost feel his desire to just go out there and do it himself. It showed all football fans that Bilic is no joker and for the time he’s in charge at West Ham,
there will be plenty of ideas for when it turns out we need a plan B. It’s also fair to say he wasn’t willing to compromise his beliefs and he was willing to show others his disapproval of theirs. As his fellow pundits spouted their various tactical ideas, Bilic was willing to shake them off with a “pfffft” before telling them why they were so awfully wrong. Not only did it make for great television, it gave Hammers fans and football fans a possible dressing room insight. Slaven doesn’t take any nonsense. He’s a leader and a clever one at that. Not only has he got those traits, social media was filled with people commenting on how they’d love to just go for a drink with him. In fact, lots of drinks!
Others suggested that he looked as though he’d already had a few. That’s what we like, isn’t it? Someone who’s a bit relatable, someone who we’d love to talk football with? Not someone whose only answers to questions lack passion and flair. Football fans love someone with charisma, as long as it’s not the arrogant kind, and Bilic showed bags of it. He strayed short of being the village idiot; his balance of amusing TV moments perfectly counter-balanced his intellectual snippets. Why was his screen-presence so important for the club? Well, in the season West Ham has coming up, it has to be seen as a club that people like, support and will to do well.
I have little doubt that the club will pick up fans as the new stadium beds itself into Premier League, and maybe European, life. Wouldn’t it be great if those new fans were lured in my Super Slav’s passion and character rather than meaningless promise of corporate tickets? As a West Ham fan, it was great to get a look at Slaven doing what he loves this summer, which is watching and talking about all things football. He’s a football-man and doesn’t let anything get in the way of his love for the game and his way of thinking. Personalities can be hard to manage in the dressing room, but this summer has shown us that not only is Bilic the man to handle strong characters, but he’s also the man to keep them entertained and even be a friend in times of need. We knew we loved Bilic, but I think we’re more certain than ever that he’s the man for our club. BBM