With West Ham’s 2014/15 campaign sadly dragging out into a somewhat tiresome affair since the turn of the year, speculation surrounding Sam Allardyce’s future at the club is as rife as it has ever been.
The former Bolton boss seems to be edging further and further away from his current position with every passing day – and with his contract in the east end coming to its culmination at the end of the season – Big Sam’s future with the Hammers looks to be fleeting at best.
However, with Rafa Benitez seemingly being courted for the Real Madrid job of late, David Moyes apparently wanting to stick it out in La Liga for a little while longer, and Jurgen Klopp remaining a highly unlikely proposition even at the best of times – West Ham’s available managerial options look to be wearing thin as the 2015/16 campaign approaches.
There is still one suitable name left in the hat for the Hammers this summer though, and although several of the Upton Park contingency are yet to truly understand the potential he offers, the case for Slaven Bilic as West Ham manager nonetheless deserves some evaluation.
He could be just the man we need at the moment…
Admittedly it’s hard to reel off just exactly how the 46-year-old would take to life in the Premier League after only managing in Croatian, Russian and Turkish club football in the past. His approach has nevertheless been described as both pragmatic and stylish – and if his reputation on the international scene is anything to go by – such reports do in-fact seem to have some truth behind them.
Those of us with short memories need only cast our minds back to the ill-fated Euro 2008 qualifiers, in which Bilic’s Croatia somewhat embarrassed England in both fixtures and successfully topped Group E with some pretty devastating panache. There didn’t seem to be many question marks over his credentials back then, did there?
Yes, he has no experience in English management and taking over at West Ham will certainly prove a tough ask initially, but through being scared of hiring such a candidate without a past life in the Premier League, our club will forever tread water with the same old names and faces in the dug-out unless a real gamble is taken sooner or later.
Southampton did it with Ronald Koeman this year to great effect, Swansea also profited from taking a leap of faith in Garry Monk, and as many great Premier League managers invariably begin their journey with little to no experience to their name at first, there is no reason why Slaven Bilic can’t do the same at Upton Park.
We need someone who has something to prove in the modern era, not just a ‘reliable’ has-been looking for another big pay day.
After all, with just a little bit of research into the man’s character and background, it really does start to become clear that Slaven Bilic has a lot more to him than the rather one dimensional Sam Allardyce. Off the pitch the Croatian coach plays guitar in a rock-band and is a qualified lawyer, yet on the side-lines he is a passionate figurehead who doesn’t take any prisoners.
While Steve McClaren was being deemed the ‘wally with the brolly’ on the touch-line against the man in question, Bilic was still barking orders at his team in the pouring rain – even though Croatia had all but qualified at that stage. It says a lot about what he expects from his players, and the level of ambition he sees in his side.
The 46-year-old’s past life as a West Ham United player must also hold him in strong stead to continue where he left off in the east end. Certain Hammers fans may resent Bilic for quickly moving onto Everton not long after he first signed under Harry Redknapp back in 1996 – but because the Croatian international had to secure his place in his side’s 1998 World Cup squad during that time – maybe he deserves to be cut some slack with all things considered.
The club were nearly relegated during the 1996-97 season after all, and even though he could have easily jumped shipped before that particular campaign reached its final conclusion, Slaven Bilic nevertheless stayed on to ensure West Ham remained in the Premier League. His claret and blue past can therefore be spun in a whole manner of different angles.
With everything taken into account regarding the Croatian boss then – it must be said that Slaven Bilic does potentially offer a great deal for West Ham as the Olympic Stadium move approaches.
Yes, it’s a gamble for sure, but as any new face would seemingly be preferable over Sam Allardyce at the minute, maybe it’s one that should be given some real consideration by the Hammers chairman.