Five things West Ham fans can look forward to next season

Last summer, West Ham were told ‘be careful what you wish for’ by so called football experts after they decided to part ways with Sam Allardyce and replace him with Slaven Bilic.

The general feeling amongst neutrals was that the Hammers would rue the decision to get rid of a trusted Premier League manager who guarantees top-flight safety and appoint a boss with no prior managerial experience in England.

But West Ham wanted more than just guaranteed Premier League safety and were willing to gamble and prove everyone wrong, especially in their final ever season at the Boleyn Ground.

Fast forward nine months and the Hammers are flying, staring at the rest of the world with smug looks on their faces. A disappointing Europa League third qualifying round exit to FC Astra in August didn’t get the Bilic revolution off the best of starts, but since then they’ve been absolutely sensational and could still finish in the top four.

It’s fair to say that had Leicester not stolen the headlines with their incredible title-winning campaign, West Ham would definitely be the team on everyone’s lips this season.

A club-record points tally, an FA Cup quarter-final, victories away at Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal, and of course the return of the much heralded ‘West Ham Way’, has given Hammers fans every reason to be optimistic for the future.

So here are five things Hammers fans can look forward to next season…

Olympic Stadium

Regardless of your feelings towards the deal West Ham got with the Olympic Stadium, you can’t deny the fact they’ve got a hugely impressive new home to move in to.

The initial belief was that they’d struggle to fill the 54,000 seater arena, but high demand for tickets has led to the club having to increase the capacity to 60,000 before the beginning of next season. What’s more, Karren Brady confirms in the video above that they’ve already sold 50,000 season tickets. Incredible.

With one of the biggest stadiums in the Premier League as their new home, the Hammers will undoubtedly be an attractive proposition for better players and perhaps even mega-rich investors.

It’ll be a sad day next week when Slaven Bilic’s men host Man United in the final game ever at the Boleyn Ground, but the prospect of moving to a bigger and better stadium was always too good to turn down.

Still not convinced? Watch the video below…

European football?

The Hammers ultimately flopped during the qualifying rounds of the Europa League at the beginning of this season, but their campaign did begin on July 2, just a couple of weeks after Slaven Bilic had been confirmed as the new manager.

Bilic sat in the stands for the Hammers’s 4-0 aggregate victory against Andorran minnows FC Lusitanos in the first qualifying round and then proceeded to field a mixture of youth and experience in the following matches, which ultimately led to the Hammers losing 4-3 on aggregate to Astra in the third qualifying round after throwing away a 2-0 lead late in the first leg.

But you just know Bilic’s Hammers will be much better prepared for European football next season. They’re still in with a chance of securing Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history and are all but guaranteed a place in the Europa League at the very least.

The fact they had to go through so many qualifying rounds last term worked against them, but this time they could go straight into the group stages fully equipped with a far better squad.

But ultimately, the chance to host European football during their first season at the Olympic Stadium is something every West Ham fan will be looking forward to. Not a bad way to kick off a new and exciting era, eh?

Big name striker?

The club have made it very clear that they’re prepared to spend a vast amount of money on a big-name striker in the summer, with some news outlets claiming they could even throw £40million at one marquee signing.

Either way, the progress the Hammers have made in such a short space of time under Bilic, as well as the added bonuses of the Olympic Stadium and the possibility of European football, means they’re now in a position to compete for these players in the transfer market.

The likes of Michy Batshuayi, Alexandre Lacazette, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wilfried Bony, Edin Dzeko and Christian Benteke are just a few strikers who have been linked with a move to east London in recent months.

Whoever they sign, you can bet your life on the fact Dimitri Payet will have no problems assisting him in front of goal next season.

Young blood

West Ham are famed for being the ‘Academy of Football’ and are proud of the fact it they developed England’s greatest ever player and the only Englishman to have lifted the World Cup – Bobby Moore.

There are, of course, a whole host of names that go alongside Moore as world-class players to have come through West Ham’s youth setup, including in the 1990s when Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe all came through and went on to achieve great things within the game elsewhere.

Aside from current club captain Mark Noble and defender James Tomkins, the West Ham academy has endured an era of relative inactivity, but signs of a new golden generation are beginning to shine through once more.

A 16-year-old Reece Oxford made the headlines on the opening day of the season when he kept Mesut Ozil quiet at the Emirates as West Ham ran out 2-0 winners against Arsenal. The youngster has been used wisely and carefully by Bilic ever since, while he was also given the armband for the club’s U21 side.

That U21 side won the U21 Premier League Cup on Wednesday night and boasted a number of exciting youngsters who could be given a chance in the first team next season – Oxford, Martin Samuelsen, Declan Rice and Lewis Page to name but a few.

Then factor in the likes of Reece Burke, who was named Bradford’s Player of the Season after a successful loan spell, and new arrival Toni Martinez, who arrived from Valencia just a couple of weeks ago, and West Ham’s new golden generation of youngsters might just be in full swing again.

Inspired by Leicester?

Leicester City winning the Premier League is proof that anyone can win it, even without multi-billionaire owners bankrolling your way to success. Admittedly the Foxes do have a billionaire owner, but they’ve spent a fraction of what the likes of Chelsea and Man City have in order to win titles in recent years.

West Ham, though, look like a fair bet for a similar feat in the coming years. The foundations are in place – a new stadium, owners prepared to spend wisely and a manager with an attractive footballing philosophy.

If Bilic can strengthen his squad in the way we’re all expecting in the summer, whacking a few quid on West Ham to ‘do a Leicester’ next season might not be the worst thing you ever do.

If there is a Premier League club with so much potential to achieve great things in the coming years, it has to be West Ham United.