Football

West Ham fans must be more realistic and back Slaven Bilic

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Football News
24/7

This is one of the most pivotal periods in the 120 year history of West Ham United. The approaching season will be their last at the Boleyn Ground, a venue they have played their football at since 1904.

The 2016/17 season will see the Hammers move to London's Olympic Stadium. The ground built for the 2012 Olympic Games in London has a capacity of 80,000. Compare this to that of the Boleyn Ground which looks tiny in comparison with a capacity of 35,016.

The decision to move to the new ground has made the 2015/16 an important season for the Hammers. The club needs to be in a position of stability when the Hammers make the move, this is why it's time to back the man in charge.

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FANS WERE WRONG TO TURN ON BIG SAM

As the last campaign wore on it became increasingly apparent that there was a great deal of discontent with the manager from the West Ham fans. The team made a promising start to the season and at one point looked as if they might creep into the Champions League places. However it wasn't to be and performance levels slipped in the second half of the season as the team eventually finished in 12th position.

The reality is that Sam Allardyce did not do a bad job at the club. When he took charge in June 2011 the club had just been relegated from the Premier League. Big Sam managed to steady the ship and took them back to England's top division at the first time of asking, via the play offs.

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The following season he led the team to a respectable 10th place finish in the Premier League. The following season the Hammers could only manage a 13th place finish but last season Allardyce took them up another place. 

West Ham's finishes since they arrived back in their Premier League have been respectable if not spectacular. Allardyce has clearly established the Hammers as a stable Premier League club.

In his three Premier League seasons with the club they finished tenth, seventh and 12 points above the relegation zone. These figures alone show that Allardyce brought a great deal of stability to the club, but still the fans were not satisfied.

PLAYING THE 'WEST HAM WAY'

The overriding criticism of Sam Allardyce was that he didn't set his teams out to play the style of football that the West Ham fans expected of the club. Instead Allardyce employed 'long-ball' football once the club had reached the Premier League. It's something he's been criticised for by fans, pundits and managers during his time at West Ham.

However he still boasts a respectable win percentage of 38.12% the fourth highest from the eight West Ham managers who have managed the club on a permanent basis during the Premier League era.

When he arrived at the club Allardyce promised that the team would play 'attractive football' so to a certain extent the fans discontent with the style of play is justified. Big Sam did not deliver on this promise and at times their style of play was not pretty.

Last season he maintained that they were 'more than a long-ball team' and their were certainly very few criticising the manager when they were in fine form at the start of the campaign.

Just what is the 'West Ham way'? You can't help but think the fans might be kidding themselves a bit. The club's glory days were a long time ago now and perhaps it's time to wake up. This is a team that's highest Premier League finish was fifth. The club has never been in the Premier League top four so perhaps it's time to accept that Premier League stability is enough for the club.

The style of play that Allardyce brought to the club may not have been great to watch but it was enough to cement West Ham as a Premier League club for three consecutive seasons. Fans of course love to dream and they want to win trophies but you have to feel that the West Ham fans are asking too much of their managers.

BILIC'S CHALLENGE

With Sam Allardyce departing the club has now turned to Slaven Bilic, a man who had an 18 month spell at the club as a player during the 1990s. He arrives at West Ham having led Besiktas to a third place finish in the Turkish league.

The Croatian boasts an impressive win percentage in all of his managerial roles, in fact it is above 50 per cent in four out of the five jobs he's had in management. This seems to bode well for the future.

Bilic seems to be a popular choice of manager amongst West Ham fans. The general conscientious is that the Croatian understands how the fans expect the club to play. The hope is that Bilic can deliver the 'attractive' football that the fans rarely saw during the Allardyce era. This is Bilic's challenge.

He is tasked with not just winning matches but doing so in a fashion that pleases the fans. This will be difficult. West Ham do not have world class players so lots of training will be required to develop the style of play that the fans want. However the fans need to realise that Bilic can be quite a hard character, he will not be swayed by fan and media opinion, ultimately it will be him calling the shots.

THE RISKS OF 'ATTRACTIVE' FOOTBALL

The West Ham fans are crying out for this brand of 'attractive' football but aren't really considering the potential consequences of playing in such a manner. Allardyce's style of play, while unattractive, made the Hammers into a fairly solid outfit that could comfortably survive in the Premier League. So reverting to an entirely new style of play will be a risk.

Many of the players at the club will have gotten used to the style of play under Big Sam meaning they may struggle to adapt to the more open style of play that may be implemented. As we all know the Premier League is unforgiving and if the players are not comfortable with what they are being asked to do then it will have an negative impact on results.

Playing a more open, attacking style of game could make the the team more vulnerable in defence. The big question is: do West Ham have the players to play 'attractive' football? It seems some investment will be necessary in order to achieve this. If this new way of playing is in fact implemented then the club may well lose some solidity, therefore West Ham fans should be careful what they wish for.

PATIENCE IS THE KEY

It's important that the fans and board stand by Bilic during his time at the club. This is a crucial period in West Ham's history and they cannot afford to be chopping and changing over the coming year. The fans need to show more patience than they did with their previous manager because things won't simply improve over night. If they truly want a more attractive style of play to be implemented at the club then they need to give the manager the time to do it.

Make no mistake, the coming season will not be an easy one. After Allardyce's departure, there will be much scrutiny on Bilic to see if he can do any better than his predecessor. Patience will ultimately be the key to any success West Ham achieve.

This can almost be regarded as a transition period for the club. Next season may be more about developing as a team than finishing in a high position. There will be tough times and there will be great times, sometimes the football will be beautiful, other times it will be dour but regardless of what happens the fans need to show faith in their new manger.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Sam Allardyce
West Ham United

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