Cast your mind back to when Bilic was appointed West Ham manager in June 2015 and how it was greeted with a cautiously positive reaction.
Depending on who you listened to, he ranged somewhere from second choice to some way down the list. Fast forward 640-odd days, though, and he’s surely become one of the most popular West Ham managers ever. And it begs the question: Is it time to place our faith in Bilic and give him a longer-term contract?
A glance at a list of records and achievements we set last season is a good place to start. First win at Anfield (3-0) since 1963, first time that West Ham won three successive away games since 2007; and away wins at Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool – only three other teams have done this in a single season since the Premier League began. Th en you’ve got highest number of points in one season (62), best goal difference in one season (+14), least number of games lost in one season (8), and least number of away defeats (5).
Frankly, the win over Manchester United in the last home game at the Boleyn was worth the admission fee alone. Being honest with ourselves though, how much of this could have been achieved without Slaven Bilic? I love Slaven. I find him incredibly endearing, very well spoken, articulate and intelligent; not only this but he generally accepts defeats with good grace and shows his class in post-match interviews. He would definitely get an invite to my dinner party.
Of course, all of that is great, but results are very important, and happily he’s doing well here at the moment. His win percentage before the squad jetted off to Dubai was around the 40 percent mark; more wins than defeats, which is always good. As a West Ham fan, though, it’s not always results I’m looking for, which is just as well, given some of the ups and downs of this season!
I want to hear and feel passion for the club from the manager; I can accept defeat, so long as we leave everything on the park and played in the right way. One of the best things about Bilic’s tenure is that I haven’t felt this level of “West Ham-ness” from any of our managers for a long time now.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than the recent episode where a young fan was taken to the training ground by their dad, with the aim of meeting Andy Carroll towards the end. But with Carroll unavailable as he was staying late to work on his fitness, Bilic took them both inside the training facility at Rush Green to meet Carroll and pose for a picture. I can’t think of another manager that would have done that – would Big Sam really have gone to that level?
His approach to the big games is refreshing too. For instance, he motivates the team to relax with music – encouraging them to listen to inspirational songs. Indeed, he says that music is effectively his fuel: ‘I cannot do my job without music, I need it to relax.’ It seems to have had a positive effect on the team’s fortunes. This season hasn’t always been plain sailing and indeed there have been a few damaging results, particularly at home.
The move to the new stadium has been challenging, but even though perhaps Slaven might admit that he hasn’t always made the right tactical decisions during games, we can’t expect managers to be perfect every time, just like we don’t get everything right about our jobs all the time.
The important thing is that he gets most of the decisions right and plays to win. With recent results placing West Ham towards the top of the form table, his management decisions are being vindicated. Under Bilic, I think the future looks bright. Our board, who’ve made some questionable decisions over recent months, could do themselves a big favour by giving Bilic a new contract, and allow him to build on the job he’s made such a good job of starting.