When Slaven Bilic took over from Sam Allardyce as manager of West Ham United last season there was a huge relief. And the pay off was pretty immense.
Bilic had his team playing positive football with no fears and the Hammers faithful looked like they had found exactly the right man in what was to be their final season at the Boleyn Ground in nearly 100 years of football.
And they had- The Hammers certainly had wobbles but they also recorded the most points ever in a Premier League campaign- and they didn’t just do it, they eased over that winning line with games to spare. They also secured European football for this season via the Europa League and the future in a new 60,000 plus stadium does look bright for the East Londoners.
But how bright will that be? Football analysts will be aware of the so called honeymoon period in for managers. Look at the recent case of Alan Pardew- so successful and respected when he switched mid season from Newcastle United to Crystal Palace- and there can be no doubts that he made the right decision. Palace had a new self belief about them and went on a string of brilliant results to push themselves into the top half of the table.
However last season despite some terrific results Pardew’s team were lost at sea somewhat and the reality soon came thundering in of Pardew and Palace’s limitations. Last season they finished 15th. Champions Leicester City almost finished with double those points.
So back to West Ham and with a new stadium and the popularity of Bilic as manager, players and fans both love the former Hammers player, there is, on the face of it, space for optimism.
However if pre season and their Europa League first leg match is anything to go by then fans will be slightly worried. The Irons have recorded just a single win from those six matches. The other worrying factor is that the Hammers have not been able to arrange a match against a top side in anyone of those fixtures.
They will of course play Juventus on August 7th to officially ‘open’ their new Olympic Stadium.
Until then they have other matters to contend with as they prepare to come back from a 2-1 deficit against Slovakians NK Domzale in the Europa League qualifier in London, just three days prior to the friendly match.
A shock exit at this stage could well be the lay of the land for the season ahead. West Ham’s ambitions under Bilic at this time will be to get near the ball park figure of their total points haul and try to win for the first time in 36 years some silverware. It will be interesting if Bilic and his team can escape the honeymoon curse that has fallen on many a manager.