West Ham backs manager Slaven Bilic despite ‘tough season’
LONDON (AP) — Slaven Bilic was assured on Thursday that he will remain in charge of West Ham. The English Premier League club’s ownership blames a “tough season” on factors out of the manager’s control.
West Ham has dropped to 12th place after losing its last three games, adding to uncertainty about Bilic’s future during a troubled first season for the club since leaving Upton Park for London’s Olympic Stadium.
“There is no issue between me and the board and Slaven ... and in the board (meetings) there have been no discussions over Slaven’s future,” co-owner David Gold said after a meeting of Premier League team executives in London.
“He’s our manager, we all like him, he’s a great guy. I like him very much. He’s very passionate and I love the passion.
“Would I like to be two or three places higher than we currently are? Of course I would. Tell me a club apart from Chelsea who wouldn’t. There are no issues. There never has been a new contract on the table. He still has the rest of this season and next season.”
Bilic raised expectations by steering West Ham to seventh place in his first season in charge, securing European qualification. But after losing only eight of its 38 games in the 2015-16 campaign, the east London club has already been beaten 14 times this season with nine games to go. West Ham also exited the Europa League before the group stage.
West Ham has grappled with the disruption caused by fan trouble at the Olympic Stadium and star player Dimitri Payet forcing his way out of the club in January to return to Marseille.
“He’s had a tough season, we accept that,” Gold said of Bilic. “He’s had stadium issues outside of his control. He’s had Payet issues which he dealt with to the best of his ability. He’s had injury issues. At one time we were second in the league for days lost and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were still in top three or four for clubs affected.
“We had a fantastic season last year where players over-performed. Payet was much better than we assumed he would be, (and Manuel) Lanzini turned out to be a better player than we thought.”
And Gold insists the club will continue to make cash available to strengthen the squad.
“This business about West Ham being cheapskates because all we are doing is buying loans and so-called freebies is not right,” he said. “Taking a player on loan with a view to buy is more expensive. You pay more but you are taking out insurance against the down side.”
Gold pointed to the signing of Simone Zaza. The striker joined on a season-long loan from Juventus but failed to score in 11 games. West Ham in January sent Zaza back to the Italian champions who sent him to Valencia.
“Everyone was saying this is a player you have got to get,” Gold said. “We have been very wise — and brought him in on a loan with a view to buy which saved us a lot of embarrassment.”
Rob Harris at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports