Contract talks are usually for players.
Simon Mingolet has just signed an extension, Manchester City want to extend Sergio Aguero’s contract, West Ham have sorted out a new deal for Dimitri Payet, but it is the players that get the new deals, not usually the manager.
And why? Because managers don’t tend to stay very long. The board and fans want success and want it immediately, because usually they’re not interested in tomorrow or next season.
However, a breath of fresh air wafted down the busy road of Green Street in East London last summer. The breeze brought forth a Croatian. Not just any Croatian, but actually one of West Ham’s own.
After the results in the second half of last season and the kind of football that was served at Upton Park under the previous regime, the West Ham faithful breathed a sigh of relief, of optimism, of faith, of a new dawning, of a future under the experienced hand of Slaven Bilic.
Some argued that he was untested at Premier League level. Yes, but he had bags of managerial experience in Europe and as the national coach for Croatia, but the Premier League is different and intense and that’s what Jurgen Klopp is now finding out at Liverpool. Intense competition, every league game winnable and equally lose-able, and cup games that come thick and fast.
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They forgot that, though. The pundits and the experts forgot. Bilic knew all this. He doesn’t need to have managed here before because he played in it, he’s done it and worn the t-shirt.
Bilic wasn’t even first choice, but no-one at Upton Park minded that. They probably wanted a West Ham man, as generally in the past that’s what West Ham have done. A three-year deal worth around £3m a year is his current contract, but the word on the street is that West Ham will offer Bilic a better contract. As is entirely usual under the Chairmanship of the two David’s, any business done is done at the end of the season.
So why are the fans feeling a revolution and the board freely admitting to a probable contract extension? What’s the Slaven Bilic effect?
Bilic is the type of manager who endears himself to the fans, the players under him and the media. He keeps everyone onside, whoever they are, but cross him and you are finished. My first piece of evidence – Morgan Amalfitano. Au revoir.
The players signed by the club in the summer and the two in the January transfer window have been quite exceptional and positively shrewd. My second piece of evidence – Sam Byram arrived for just £4m, and then there’s Payet, who cost just £10.75m? Really?
Even the head scratching-but-ok-we’ll-go-along-with-it signing of Jelavic, may pay off as The Hammers look set to sell him for more than they paid for him.
Bilic’s style of play is a completely different ball game to Sam Allardyce. The man with no plan B is struggling to keep Sunderland alive, but the way Bilic has brought a new culture and a new style of play has indeed raised eyebrows amongst the footballing community.
Arsenal away, Manchester City away, Liverpool have tried four times under two separate mangers to beat The Hammers and couldn’t – all of these achievements and a current 6th place in the Premier League just goes to show the effect that Bilic is having in the East End of London. Is this the new “West Ham Way?”
When he makes a change – it’s definite. There is a plan B and yes, they have lost a few games they shouldn’t have, but so has every team this season. West Ham continue to push for Europe, although Bilic is keen to play it down. Clever man. That approach takes the pressure off the players and lowers expectations.
It’s called psychology, and it works. The players talk about Bilic being calm and that can only help in the dressing room, as does his heavy metal music style before matches. The training ground incident was another example of seeing what is wrong and being decisive.
To many, Bilic was a risk in the final season at the famous Boleyn Ground. There was talk of a possible struggle in the first year, especially as a new manager, coming in with a different style and so many new players recruited.
Whatever Bilic did behind the scenes, he did well. In front of camera he is candid, straight talking and honest. He’s stated that he would take FA Cup glory over Europe and because he has that claret and blue streak inside him, he feels it like the fans, and they love that.
When he was appointed Bilic stated: “The ambition is to try to be top ten, definitely and then improve on that.
“First season, if we can finish eighth, ninth or tenth. Then, in the space of a few seasons, with the stadium and everything, with hype, with probably a little bit more budget, with good planning and good play, nobody can stop us dreaming of European places or if we have a brilliant season to try to break into the Champions League places.”
Bilic’s brief at the beginning of the season was simple – keep us in the Premier League. That’s all. With an iminent deal on the table, Bilic will do that and more in one season. He deserves his extension, his praise and his admirers. Under him and with the backing of the board, and not forgetting that for all that has been said about his predecessor, West Ham were established in the top flight, so he had something to work with, West Ham have become eye catching and much talked about.
Maybe, just maybe, the bubbles will climb higher in the air at the new stadium and fortunes won’t always be hiding.