THE owners of West Ham United have finally sacked manager Slaven Bilic, replacing him with former Sunderland manager David Moyes.
So the show goes on at the London Stadium, only with a new ring master in charge. Moyes though has bridges to build from the start, with fans already gathering petitions protesting against the appointment of the former Real Sociedad, Manchester United and Everton manager.
The protesting fans are most concerned about Moyes’s less than impressive recent CV. He took Sunderland down last season, failed in Spain and at Manchester United — though in the latter case, he was not given a lot of time or the resources that his successors received to do the job.
At West Ham, if he can start well and get the fans behind him, Moyes may be able to get closer to the halcyon days of his career at Everton — the fans will certainly be hoping that is the case.
The demise of Bilic has been a sad thing to witness. The former West Ham player came in on a high for the final season at the Boleyn ground. His tenure began well with victories at Arsenal and Liverpool. Dimitri Payet thrilled the fans with his breathtaking skills. The great football continued almost to the end of the season. A better last week could have seen West Ham finish fourth. In the event, they came seventh.
Already though some of the cracks were beginning to appear, with some silly points given away with naive mistakes, particularly in defence. The second season started badly at the club’s new London Stadium home.
Recruitment was bad over that summer, with the players brought in on the whole not being up to the mark. This was emphasised further in the January transfer window when the club paid over the odds for Robert Snodgrass (£10 million) from Hull and Jose Fonte (£8m) from Southampton.
It took time to iron out the problems at the new stadium, though this was done in time but whatever anyone says the London Stadium will never be the Boleyn ground. Bilic managed to pull things around on the pitch, with the team finishing a credible 11th.
There was though all the time the rumours of boardroom unhappiness with the manager. Other managers were being touted to replace Bilic, who was not offered an extension on his three-year contract.
The West Ham high command have a very strange way of working with their managers, which seems to involve a lack of direct contact but communication by social media. Whether intended or not it creates a feeling of undermining all the time, rather than everyone pulling together against the perceived outside enemy — namely, the other football clubs in the Premier League.
The signings made last summer looked good — Javier Hernandez (£16m), Marko Arnautovic (£24m), Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart. However, the new signings have not gelled. Hernandez has been played all over the place, often visibly showing his displeasure with teammates and the management. Arnautovic upset Bilic early on when he was sent off in the Southampton game, putting the team in a difficult position. He never really got the manager’s confidence back after that and has been a substitute in recent games. Zabaleta has probably been the pick of the signings, though even he has given away a number of needless penalties. Hart just looks permanently frustrated at what is going on in front of him. West Ham is certainly not a happy ship.
Moyes will need to sort things out from the start. If he does the players are certainly there to get a top-eight finish but there are clearly some dressing room issues that need resolutions.
Most will be sad to see Bilic go, he’s an honest man, who never hid when things were going wrong. He has been let down big time by the players. Hopefully, he will go on to better things elsewhere.
The owners of West Ham have given the manager longer than many would in the crazy world of football these days but no doubt saw the need to act as the team seemed to be drifting toward the relegation trapdoor.
The boardroom though needs to take a look at itself, cut out the social media activity in favour of the old-fashioned idea of direct one to one communication. They also need to put their money where their mouths are.
West Ham’s ambitions have always been high; at the moment they may be getting 57,000 crowds but the net transfer outlay (£20m in the summer) is more in line with an aspiring Championship side.
Nor are the club bringing through the young players in the way they used to or other clubs like Tottenham continue to do today. This is another source of constant irritation for the fans, who want to see local lads playing for the club.
Moyes has a golden opportunity to revive his own career and reputation. The players also have the chance to make amends for the way they let down Bilic. Some of the players who were in with Bilic will no doubt not be Moyes’s favourites, while others on the Croatian’s periphery could come into the fold with the new manager.
The owners can also see the club move in the right direction if they back their new manager in all ways, including providing the funds he will need in the January transfer window.
West Ham are not in the position Sunderland were last year, they are skirting with relegation. A decent run of results would put them in the top 10 of the league.
The money is there, so if Moyes doesn’t make it happen at the London Stadium then there has to be doubt whether he can make it anywhere anymore. David Moyes has golden opportunity to save West Ham and revive his own fading reputation.
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