Slaven Speaks - Aston Villa

Ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Aston Villa, Slaven Bilic faced the media
Ahead of the Hammers’ Boxing Day duel with Aston Villa, manager Slaven Bilic faced the media.

During the pre-match press conference the gaffer fielded a range of questions from updates on Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, a busy Christmas schedule and Mark Noble’s testimonial.

Good morning Slaven, will Andy Carroll be fit to play at Aston Villa?

SB: “We were off yesterday; we have training now and then training tomorrow, then the game on Saturday. His injury is not like a big one. But that would rule him out of the game against Villa.
“There is a chance; the chance is small, from all of these players who are out. With Andy there is a little bit of a chance. We shouldn’t forget that we have two games in two days. That is a very tricky period. For him or for them, it’s impossible if some of them play at Villa, it would be a big risk or impossible to put them into Southampton as well. It would be great to mix. Now it looks like Andy might – might – be available for the game.”

What about the other players you have out injured?

SB: “It is good news that Dimitri Payet is ahead of schedule. He should train with us after Villa and is with the fitness coaches now. He might be involved in the Liverpool game which would be a big boost for us. Lanzini is progressing and will probably be available for the Southampton game. It looks like it will be the same squad as against Swansea, but we should have one or two back for Southampton."

What do you make of the Christmas schedule, are you a fan of the number of games?

SB: “We will train on Christmas Day, in the afternoon, then we will travel to Birmingham. It's as usual in England - that's the schedule. Every game is difficult in the Premier League and Aston Villa are struggling, but they played a good game against Newcastle last week. They are fighting for their lives and will have confidence from that away point. I am not expecting anything easier than Swansea.

“As for the Christmas schedule, it’s not ideal with the injuries we have but it isn’t something we can’t control, so we have to deal with it. It is the same for every team and the fans enjoy also.”

 What is the situation James Collins? His contract is up this summer. Will you talk to him about that?

SB: “Definitely. I will do that with him. He wasn’t just good against Swansea. I have said a number of times, he’s a brilliant pro. He has been from day one, whether he was on the bench or just training or playing for five minutes coming or half an hour, or now 90 minutes, he’s magnificent for us.” 

Yesterday the Club announced that Mark Noble has been awarded a testimonial, what are your thoughts on that?

SB: “I am very happy for Mark, of course. He deserves it for all his hard work over the years, he’s a great player, captain and role model. It's great that Mark Noble is going to have a testimonial game. He deserves it and is a Club legend, not many players get testimonials in modern football.”