Stand aside Claudio Ranieri and let the real Manager of the Year step forward.
In reality, there can only be one man legitimately entitled to the crown this season and that’s West Ham’s Slaven Bilic.
What a revelation Bilic has been this year, both at Upton Park and in football. The charismatic Croat is honest, funny, thoughtful, astute and above all, the players seem to have grown under his guidance.
West Ham’s season has been better than anticipated. All that was asked of Bilic was to keep the team in the Premier League ahead of the move to the Olympic Stadium. What everyone connected with the club has got in reality is a push on a Champions League place and a possible semi-final place in the FA Cup.
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On the rise of the underdog, and in particular Leicester, Bilic said: “Our story is excellent, but their story is miraculous. I would love to be the No.1 story.”
Bilic, a rookie in this league, is outperforming most other managers without breaking sweat. Not bad for a first season in the Premier League when you weren’t even first choice.
It’s true to say that Bilic was backed by the two David’s in the summer transfer window and it’s their business acumen and Slaven’s eye for a player with potential that has brought about players such as Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio. Some of the squad was brought in by Sam Allardyce, but Bilic has shaped and moulded the individuals into a team of attacking flair, resilience and character. It’s a new world at Upton Park these days, and there’s more to come.
Bilic has to be the top manager for 2015-16 because who else is there? Most people would say Ranieri, but the Italian arrived on the coat tail of an in form club anyway. Eight of his first team regulars were bought by Nigel Pearson, so as Leicester were on the crest of a wave already, what has he done?
Plus, Ranieri had managed in the Premier League before and therefore knew what to expect. There’s no Jose, Van Gaal is getting deeper into trouble, Pellegrini’s City team have more peaks and troughs than a day in the stock market and Wenger is losing his grip on an Arsenal team devoid of silverware, or anything else for that matter. Pochettino, like Ranieri, has managed another team in the league and so you can discount the Argentinian as well.
Therefore, there is no-one else.
Slaven Bilic has admitted returned to West Ham as manager was a risk – but one he had no qualms with taking. The Hammers chief played for the club during 1996 and 1997 before coming back almost 20 years later to replace Sam Allardyce at Upton Park in the summer.
He was aware that failure in charge of the Irons could’ve damaged his reputation as a fan favourite at the club, but it’s been a case of so far so good for the former Croatia manager.
What Bilic is doing this season has, to a certain extent, gone under the radar, which perhaps has been to West Ham’s advantage. Claudio Ranieri at Leicester and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham have taken the Premier League managerial centre stage this term, but it is Bilic, who like a silent assassin, has very quietly gone about re-building a West Ham team in his own image.
The West Ham way, often ridiculed by other fans, is something that other managers in the past have failed to understand or embrace. However, Bilic knows all about the club’s traditions and the West Ham way has returned to the East End in some style.
This manager has far exceeded his brief and we still have a way to go until the end of the season.
This man is Slaven Bilic – Manager of the Year.