Filed: Friday, 31st March 2017
By: The Pink Palermo
I like Slaven Bilic - which doesn't qualify him as a good manager, but I believe he is a good person (although Laurent Blanc may not agree). He is the sort of person I'd happily spend a night in the pub chatting with. He has an engaging warmth and I believe the players like that.
That may prove ultimately to be something of an Achillies Heel, as in Bilic's line of work it may serve him better to be feared than loved. However I've had enough of the nasty, snarling, mean spirited 'winners' in the game because for me football remains just that, a game. Football professionals may take a different view but that's their lookout, I'll stick with my pub yardstick.
Last season Bilic gave us a marvellous farewell to the Boleyn, turning what for many of us was a traumatic experience into something with a feel good factor. For a while nobody got near us, we were the bollocks and it felt good, the best I've felt as a West Ham supporter for 30 years.
For the Board to bottle it in January 2016 was disappointing. We had a chance, a glorious opportunity to challenge for a Champions League spot. We were riding high and they bottled it. Nevertheless, right up until the end Slaven's team gave us drama to rival the Bard of the other Stratford and the win on that final night will live long in the memory.
I bumped into Winston Reid this week and referenced his goal. He had a grin a mile wide when I did so, so for him too it was a special moment in his career.
I reckon Winston gets us, he certainly grasped the significance of Manchester United being denied the bragging rights of a last day win at our real home and I reckon Slaven gets us as well. He knows most of us don't mind losing that much as long as we are trying to win when we do so.
So, for that glorious season Slaven gets a huge amount of credit. A win at Anfield? Suits you, Sir. 3-0 at their place and we battered them, were miles better than them, it was an absolute thrashing: a proper spanking.
Not enough drama for you ? How about the Alamo at the City of Manchester Stadium? Bilic gave Michail Antonio his debut that day, a positive substitution when lesser managers may have made a different decision.
There's no doubt in my mind that last season he got the very best out of the resources available to him - what was it, eight improved results after he introduced Andy Carroll from the bench? Daring to be brave and being positive in his approach meant we exited the Boleyn on a high (which for me was always more important than getting off to a flyer at the Athletics stadium).
Clearly this season has been tougher, we can all see why and to have to put up with all the nonsense from DImitri Payet and Diafra Sakho would be a test for any manager. See how Arsene Wenger has struggled with the Ozil/Sanchez situation at the Arsenal - and they've generally been willing to play.
Bilic has also had to endure inappropriate interference from co-Chairman Sullivan; his comments on Antonio's position being particularly unhelpful. somehow I doubt Sir Alex Ferguson would have put up with similar comments from his employers at East Stirling, let alone Old Trafford.
Having said that, he has made a number of decisions this season that, given his time again, he may have made different ones. But so what - I quite like a car journey home where we can say "I think he got it a bit wrong today" but without being too bothered, because he's a decent bloke and difficult to dislike.
The fact he sometimes gets it wrong is pretty endearing. Lord save us from a Mourinho type who never gets it wrong and who never accepts it's down to him. And I think that might be it, the quality I've been trying to define. It's Slaven's humility that sets him apart from his peer group.
He's a little bit humble and in the over-hyped, over-sold world of the Premier League it's a throwback to gentler times and an era when our club stood by managers through thick and thin. A time when we were one of the most respected football clubs in the land because of that.
Mark Noble has played roughly half as many games for us as Billy Bonds did, but has been picked by three times as many managers. I can't help but feel that somewhere along the way we've lost some of the things that defined us; loyalty, dignity and class.
We can start to turn that around by sticking with our current manager. We're the famous West Ham, we don't have to be like all the rest. I voted 'stick' in the current KUMB poll.
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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