While the Premier League season officially gets underway in a few days, West Ham’s 16/17 campaign is already underway having already played a Europa League third qualifying round tie.
Slaven Bilic’s men enjoyed a historic final season at the Boleyn Ground by finishing 7th in the Premier League and enjoying an FA Cup run to the quarter-finals. The Hammers’ success of 15/16 was mostly down to the arrival of Bilic and the immediate impact he had within the dugout.
From his shrewd business in the transfer window to the change in playing style on the pitch, Bilic’s West Ham looked a far cry from the one we all witnessed under Sam Allardyce.
That means West Ham fans can be forgiven for being a bit too excited about what can be achieved under the Croat this season, especially in a new home and with some ever better players within the squad.
And as if the excitement couldn’t increase further, we’ve teamed up with 7 Of The Best to bring you a footballing treat for the coming campaign. It’s free to play and the best team each week wins £1,500, as well as monthly prize of £4,000 for the best individual. Want to win bigger? Nab yourself a whopping £500k if you get all seven of your selections correct for seven consecutive weeks.
How do you play? All you need to do is pick seven teams each week, one being your banker, five being teams you expect to win and one you believe will draw.
So following on from the same theme, we’ve picked seven of the best things to have happened at West Ham since Slaven Bilic returned to East London…
While the rest of the Premier League appear to be obsessed with spending world record fees on players, West Ham picked up one of the biggest bargains in Premier League history last summer.
Dimitri Payet joined the Hammers from Marseille for just £10.7m and became an instant hit, netting 9 goals and contributing 12 assists in 30 Premier League outings. His form earned him a place in the Premier League’s Team of the Season, a nomination for the Player of the Season and a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad, where he wowed the rest of Europe with similar performances.
The fans love him, he loves the fans, and you can tell he’ll have the exact same impact this season as well. For just £10.7m, West Ham have nabbed themselves one of the best players in Europe right now.
West Ham’s away form in the Premier League has never been great, so you can imagine the surprise when Slaven Bilic rocked up and led the Hammers to a 2-0 victory over Arsenal the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of last season.
The Hammers followed that immediately with a first victory at Anfield for over 50 years and then came away from the Etihad Stadium with all three points a couple of weeks later. Within six weeks of the start of the season the Hammers gained maximum points at three of the hardest grounds to visit. Impressive.
Over the season, Bilic’s West Ham only lost five league games on the road, and even registered impressive draws at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the King Power Stadium.
West Ham fans are well renowned for being some of the most passionate fans in the world, so it’s no surprise they’re now being complimented by an equally passionate manager.
From the very moment Bilic arrived at the club you could see his passion for the club and the game oozing through, none more so in his press conferences and his media commitments at Euro 2016.
But West Ham fans will never forget the passion he showed at the end of their final ever game at the Boleyn Ground, when celebrations ensued and tears began to flow. Every club needs a manager like him.
SB on qualifying for the UCL this season: "You have to believe in everything. That is the goal now. We can at least repeat last season."
— WestHamWorld.co.uk (@WestHamWorld) July 27, 2016
West Ham fans are an optimistic bunch, even if they have had to deal with more lows than highs in recent years.
But ever since Bilic replaced Sam Allardyce last summer, West Ham have been extremely optimistic about their chances to progress and become one of the best teams in the Premier League.
Of course, a move to the impressive London Stadium helps that optimism, but Bilic’s impact on the playing squad last season means there is real hope and belief that the Hammers can go and achieve things they could only dream of just a few years ago.
Bilic has to take so much credit for instilling a sense of real belief at the club from the fans all the way to the dressing room.
We’re all sick of hearing the usual cliche’s from managers who don’t want to upset anyone, or can’t take the fact they lost to a better side.
But Bilic is different, he understands the importance of being honest. Last season, on the rare occasion when West Ham played particularly badly, he wouldn’t be afraid to admit that the better side won in his post-match media commitments – this is evident in the above video after the Hammers’ 4-1 home defeat to Swansea last season.
The same would be if West Ham played exceptionally well but were let down by a poor refereeing decision – he’d make it clear that the referee was at fault.
He’s a breath of fresh air and more managers should take note.
West Ham’s final season at the Boleyn Ground was always going to be an emotional one, but there was much importance behind it being successful.
Despite losing their first two home games of the campaign – against Leicester and Bournemouth – Bilic’s side went on to lose just once more in front of their home fans in the Premier League all season.
All the so-called ‘big clubs’ came the East London and dropped points – only Manchester City and Chelsea managed to avoid defeat – and it the final ever game there saw West Ham come from 2-1 down to win 3-2 against Manchester United in dramatic and emotional fashion.
West Ham fans wouldn’t have had it any other way, and Bilic is widely recognised as the man who made it happen.
West Ham moved in to their new home just last week and you can’t deny the fact it is incredibly impressive.
The Hammers began life at the London Stadium with a Europa League third qualifying round 2nd leg match with Slovenian outfit NK Domzale, trailing 2-1 after a disappointing first leg the week before.
But life in Stratford was never going to get off to the worst possible start under Bilic. The Hammers romped to an easy 3-0 victory in front of a record 54,000 fans, giving the club the perfect start to a new era.
They followed that up with a narrow 3-2 defeat to Juventus in a glamour friendly last weekend, which followed an impressive opening ceremony of the stadium.
So despite the emotion of having to leave the Boleyn Ground overcoming many earlier in the year, the fact West Ham can now call an impressive 60,000 seater stadium home certainly outweighs the cons, and the fact Bilic ensured the Hammers made the transition successful and with style, West Ham fans will always be grateful.