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With friends like these Slav, who needs enemies?


Filed: Saturday, 4th February 2017
By: Paul Walker


Slaven Bilic must wonder what he did in a previous life to deserve all this hassle and stress. Maybe he should ask Glenn Hoddle, who was once an expert on such things!

Now before I start this, itís not going to be a eulogy to Slav and why he should keep his job because heís one of us, and we all love him. He knows the game, heís a big boy now and if we keep producing shit performances, particularly at home like Wednesdayís, then he will be history.

But letís be honest, heís had the job from hell this season and these past few weeks there has been a long list of stuff from the Trotters and Cassandra making it clear that the manager makes the decisions and they would never, ever buy players he does not want.

And guess what, in a piece I have seen as the Roberto Mancini thing gathered steam, we were told that the board are concerned over the transfer activity last summerÖno, seriously, as if they had nothing to do with it. Jesus, it takes your breath away sometimes, and I donít just mean the Manchester City kid who tore us apart.

Let's tackle that bit first. Why was Mancini there, full frontal for the TV cameras? Did West Ham invite him? Did his former club Manchester City invite him? Did he win a ticket in a raffle? Did he get one from our ticket exchange? More importantly, did we know he was there?

If so, knowing what a furore his attendance would create, why didnít we shift him into a sponsors box, to avoid putting Slav under pressure? Mancini has been looking for a job all season, his people are searching far and wide. There he was at the OS, and then quoted in the Italian media later saying how much he wanted a Premier League job, and by the way, the new stadium atmosphere was crap.

But in keeping the general lack of class and dignity our board regularly mastermind, they allowed the story to unfold. You are tempted to think they almost encouraged it.

Now my esteemed colleague on these pages, the wonderfully named Mr. HeadHammerShark of this parish, has graphically slaughtered everyone in sight after the second City debacle in a matter of weeks and has taken understated sneering, snide sarcasm to a new level. I commend his piece to you.

So I wonít add my two pennath, but just my sympathy to Slav for the crap he is having to contend with. Now I am not daft enough to suggest he mustnít shoulder some of the blame for this season of fiasco after disaster.

But we have seen some snivelling shifting of blame recently. Old man Gold tells his twitter fans that they would never buy a player without the managerís consent. Our director of football, his little Welsh chum, tells us that he wanted to make an example of Dimi Payet but it was Slav who insisted the Frenchman was sold.

Then Gold adds that it was the managerís decision to send Toni Martinez and Reece Oxford out on loan. And of course we are fed the line that Slav never wanted Scott Hogan in the first place, which will have seriously pissed off head of recruitment Tony Henry, who had slaved over the deal and wanted it completed.

Slav said no, sorry lads. Funny that deal. When Hogan was first mentioned, the fansí forums were flooded with stuff suggesting he was not good enough, coming from little old Brentford. Then when the deal is canned, folk complain that we should have taken a punt on an injury-plagued largely inexperienced lad who has played just 66 full-time professional games scoring 33 goals for Rochdale and Brentford.

In a non-league career between 2010 and 2013, with six different clubs, the Salford-born forward had netted 33 goals in 80 games. Seems a lot of injuries there, but still sounds worth a punt, maybe, but for £15m. Slav thought not. And I reckon that although having doubts about whether he could make the jump to Premier League, he also wondered exactly where he would utilise him.

In a system that has Andy Carroll up front on his own, and with Michail Antonio the obvious cover--and with Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho around too--Hogan may well have spent a lot of time on the bench, and you canít see our board, having had £15m prised from their cement encased wallets, being too pleased with that.

What Slav wanted was back-up, and he clearly sees something in Jonathan Calleri now he has settled in London, as well as Ashley Fletcher, who was denied the move back to his native Yorkshire with Leeds and no doubt his mummyís home cooking.

And you know what, Slav may well have thought that after a season of such upheaval he could do without bedding in more new players into a squad that has had the turmoil of Payet to contend with. As for a new right-back, it was Gold I recall who suggested early in the window that with Sam Byram fit, and Antonio around, there was less need to spend in that department.

Without any obvious, vastly better, full back being offered to him, Slav has stuck with what he has got. He needed to sign Jose Fonte with Angelo Ogbonna facing a season ending operation, and in Robert Snodgrass, there was at least a wide man who could take free-kicks, corner and send in crosses.

Heís not Payet, but at least even in that second-half cameo against City, Snodgrass did more running around, tackling and tracking back that Payet has done in his life.

Bilic was badly let down by Payet. It was the manager who wanted to sign the Frenchman, and that gave Dimi the platform to win his place back in his national squad and go on to become a hero of Euro 2016. Donít forget that Didier Deschamp had dumped him from his plans basically for being lazy when not in possession.

But when Payet wanted to speak to PSG and Real Madrid in the summer, something revealed by the French media and never countered by our board, the rot set in. Our beloved owners could not afford to lose Payet then, not with the migration in full swing, the ladís shirt being hoisted into the rafters of the OS and 20,000 plus new season tickets being sold on the backs of Champions League football in the very near future, and the chance to watch a world superstar playing at Stratford.

Since then Payet has been taking the piss in training and on the pitch. Slav has had to cope with that, try to talk him round while seeing the ungrateful specimen spread his ícouldnít give a shití poison through the squad.

People have said he was badly advised. No chance. He was expertly advised in how to piss off a manager, colleagues and fans and force a transfer. Sullivan sounded like a 19th century northern mill owner with his Ďmake an exampleí stuff.

Doesnít work in my view in this day and age. Keeping him around, getting fat and slow, would have created a daily story for the rest of the season. Every press conference would have seen Bilic questioned. Destabilising in the extreme.

When you refuse to play and threaten fake injuries, thereís no going back.. It was just shy of three weeks from the moment he went on strike to the move back to Marseille, sounds like he was perfectly advised.

Even then |Slav managed to show dignity by not slagging off Payet. Our board and the Sullivan boy did enough of that. What classless stuff he came out with. His disgraceful ĎsnakeĎ attack should be the last time he is allowed to tweet anything about the club. What does that look like at home and abroad when the son of the owner produces something as tacky as that?

His dad was no better, claiming Marseille were difficult to deal with. They did plenty wrong, tapping the player, having their coach bend his ear for two months, even Patrick Evra got involved.

But Marseille have good memories. They were pinned into a corner by Sullivan and his go-agent mate Mark Mackay, when the deal was forced through in the first place. Marseille were a financial basket case at the time, needed money desperately and Mackay has gone on record as saying he forced through a cut-price deal. Marseille were upset, the French FA enraged by our Ďloads of moneyí approach and we now know the player did not want to leave the French club.

There has been an interesting piece on Mail Online this week, it did Ďt make my northern edition, outlining the crazy family problems Payet has. Grand-parents in northern France claiming they have not been spoken to for seven years, a mother-in -law who moved to Marseille to be with her daughter and grandkids only to find the family moving to London.

There has also been the usual unsubstantiated internet stuff about Payetís private life flying about, not helped by the juxtaposition of a Sun story about an unnamed Premier League player who had been forced to move miles away to a new club by an enraged wife..you can guess the rest. Again, not a syllable of evidence from anywhere.

And now Bilic, having won five from seven and then loses to one of the best sides in Europe--on their day--finds Mancini sitting in the posh seats behind him. He didnít need that after the last few months of turmoil.

Yes, there is a debate over Bilicís tactics, team selection and general failure to re-produce last seasonís form. Thatís all acceptable and needed. But being set-up by almost everybody around and above him is not helping.

Of course he will go if we keep on playing like this. And we are not clear of relegation as so many people think.

But just as Slav managed to salvage the club some dignity by hailing Frank Lampardís retirement--Gold finally managed to mention it by late afternoon a full 24 hours after all Lampardís previous clubs had issued worthy tributes, it is not the manager of our club who is showing such a lack of class. Sometimes you just cringe with embarrassment at the crap that spills from our corridors of power.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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