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West Ham gamble with Bilic appointment

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Slaven Bilic is a dream appointment for many West Ham fans. A manager with a reputation for playing attacking football and a man with a bond with the Hammer’s faithful- two things his predecessor Sam Allardyce did not possess. However, for all his hype, Bilic is unproven in the Premier League, an accusation that could not be thrown at the man who occupied the West Ham dugout before him.

It could be argued that Bilic’s finest achievements in football management took place seven years ago. After beating England at Wembley to book their place in the 2008 European Championships, Bilic guided the team to the quarter-finals of the competition. After topping a group which included Germany, Croatia found themselves being branded potential winners of the tournament. A surprise quarter-final defeat to Turkey ended the dream, although the tournament had only enhanced Bilic’s reputation.

Bilic stayed on after the nation’s exit from the tournament, something of a surprise given his growing reputation. However, he was unable to guide Croatia to the 2010 World Cup as they finished third in their qualification group. Bilic again remained loyal to the national side, vowing to go again ahead of the Euros.

Like four years before, Bilic again guided his nation in the tournament proper, albeit not in same emphatic fashion as 2008, instead having to overcome Turkey in the play-offs after finishing second to Greece. Croatia were handed a tough group of Italy, Ireland and Spain. Croatia lost to eventual champions Spain in their final group and bowed out of the tournament at the group stage. Bilic left his post soon after, with a career in club management beckoning.

Russia was to be Bilic’s next destination, as he took the reins at Lokomotiv Moscow in May 2012. Moving to Russia was seen as something of a gamble, and the gamble did not pay off. Lokomotiv finished ninth and Bilic was sacked just over after taking the job.

Bilic has spent the last two years in Turkey with Besiktas. He’s been moderately successful with the club, leading them to back to back third place finishes. However, Bilic has not been able to establish the club in the Champions League, this year narrowly losing out to Arsenal in a two-legged play-off this season. Nevertheless, Bilic has shown he can manage a club side and has gone some way to putting his nightmare season in Russia behind him.

Bilic may well thrive at West Ham. He is likely to be handed a substantial transfer budget to compliment an already useful looking squad. With the right additions, a top half finish should not be beyond their reach. West Ham fans should be cautious, however. Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn all suffered relegation after Allardyce had left, and if Bilic doesn’t get off to a good start, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Hammers could find themselves struggling at the wrong end of the table.


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