There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll put it straight out there. I’ve always been a ‘Slav man’ based on his affable easy-going nature and his refusal to blame everybody and everything for a defeat or bad performance.
He has an easy charm and a personality that is easy to warm to, and it’s those virtues I reckon have had many of us overlooking some pretty obvious managerial drawbacks. None of that is really the issue here though given what took place at Newcastle and I find it entirely impossible to forgive. I’m not sure I ever will whatever his fate as West Ham boss.
I believe Declan Rice is the finest young footballer I have seen in many years. He has the lot of a young Bobby Moore about him such as his composure, comfort on the ball, ability to pick out a pass whilst not being worried about handing it out to his seniors.
There was a moment in the game at Southampton where he had a moment of maturity well in advance of his 18 years when telling Pablo Zabaleta to slow down as he was about to take a hurried throw in. It’s the mark of young Declan that he was ready to do so whilst spending the rest of the game plugging holes, pointing to spaces he wanted defenders to fi ll and if they didn’t, raced to prevent danger himself.
Bilic decided it would be a good idea to sub him, thus making him feel a hundred times worse for the whole of the second half and the long journey home. We’ve all been 18 years of age. It can be the most impressionable and trying time of our lives so thank God for Joe Hart who ran from his goal, patted him the head and passed some encouraging words.
Bilic should know better than to deliver such a savage confidence blow on the kid — a punch in the solar plexus wouldn’t have caused as much harm.