Rio - Slaven is doing a great job

Former Hammer Rio Ferdinand believes his ex-teammate has adapted to the Premier League well
Former Hammer Rio Ferdinand praised the effect current manager Slaven Bilic has had since he returned to the Club in the summer.

Ferdinand, one of the greatest players to have come through the famous Academy of Football, made 158 appearances for the Claret and Blues, winning the illustrious Hammer of the Year award in 1998.

The defensive duo overlapped at the Boleyn Ground for two seasons between 1995 and 1997 and when asked about his former teammate, the south Londoner had nothing but praise: “He has done really well; I was shocked that no one tried to hire him before now to be honest. He was great for Croatia; he’s a real good guy.

“I always got on well with him when we played together. When he came back to West Ham, I called him, gave him a bit of advice, and obviously he’s taking it all on board! But seriously, he’s a top lad, a top manager and I really get on with him.”

Like many fans and pundits, some of the results Bilic has orchestrated in his short tenure so far have caught the imagination and allowed the West Ham faithful to dream big once more.

With wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City already secured, Ferdinand clearly believes West Ham are on the right track: “They’ve been a great surprise this year; they’ve had some fantastic results.

“Dimitri Payet is a massive loss, I was surprised that he wasn’t picked up before now. He’s a great coup for West Ham and he’s proved in the first few months how talented he is.

“If they can get him back soon I’m sure they’ll have a strong second half of the season. In terms of a target, I think West Ham have got to be happy with a top 10, top eight finish.”

Having come through the Academy alongside the likes of Michael Carrick and Joe Cole, Ferdinand left West Ham in 2000 for Leeds United before joining Manchester United where he won a staggering six Premier League titles as well as the Champions League in 2008.

On his return to Boleyn Ground, his first since retiring as a professional footballer, he reflected on where it all began: May 5 1996, a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.     

He recounted: “My debut has to be my stand out memory, I remember coming out, standing on the touchline with Harry Redknapp, it was the stuff of dreams. I envisaged it for a couple of years before it happened, but until it happens, you’re never really sure if you’re ever going to get there.

“On the day, the fans were so loud and really supportive; they really got behind me as a home-grown, young player. It was a great feeling that day.

“I remember the great atmosphere, for any young player to come through at a club; you never get that type of love or adulation anywhere else. When you come through a club’s youth system, the fans definitely see a part of themselves in you; they definitely feel a part of your journey. Every fan loves to see their club producing young, exciting talent.

“I’ve got loads of memories here; it’s a beautiful place to play football. It hasn’t got long left, I’ve always liked being able to see the flats above the stand, but yes, great memories.”