Bilic blown away by Boleyn welcome

Slaven Bilic has thanked the Boleyn Ground’s capacity crowd for the warmest of welcomes

Slaven Bilic has praised the 35,000 West Ham United fans for their spine-tingling welcome as he was introduced as the Boleyn Ground as the Club’s new manager before Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League qualifier with FC Lusitans.

Bilic was presented to the sell-out crowd just before kick-off in the 3-0 win and confessed he was blown away by the reception he received. He added that vocal backing and a boisterous rendition of Bubbles simply served to further whet his appetite for the upcoming final season in West Ham’s home of more than 110 years.

“I would like to start by saying congratulations to Terry Westley and the team of course,” Bilic said. “I thought they played very well. It was a good game and a terrific atmosphere. 

“I would also like to thank the fans for the wonderful reception I received. It was amazing. It was an incredible moment and I can’t wait to be playing in Upton Park this year.”

Bilic flew in from Ireland following the conclusion of first-team training on Thursday to take his seat in the Director’s Box alongside Vice-Chairman Karren Brady.

After watching an intriguing mix of familiar first-teamers and the most promising youngsters overcome the Andorran side courtesy of a brace from Diafra Sakho and a header from James Tomkins, Bilic will catch a few hours’ sleep before jetting back out to Ireland on Friday morning to join up with the training party once more.

“I will now go back to Ireland on Friday morning to meet back up with the first-team group. To be honest I don’t really like this kind of situation with one half of the team in Ireland and one half in England but it will be that way until after we play our second leg in Andorra next week. 

“That was the only option because of the very early qualification rounds and the fact that players needed rest ahead of the Premier League season.  I don’t like the situation but we have to cope with it and we can’t get away from it. It’s going to be like that until after the second leg in Andorra.”
I would also like to thank the fans for the wonderful reception I received. It was amazing. It was an incredible moment and I can’t wait to be playing in Upton Park this year
Perhaps without all the facts to hand, FC Lusitans manager Xavi Roura chose to use his post-match press conference to question why the new West Ham manager was not in the dugout for the match, despite the fact that Academy manager Terry Westley had trained the squad for the past few weeks and knew the Under-21s involved well. For the former Croatia international, though, the reasoning and rationale was clear.

“I was thinking about the best way to manage the game and the training camp we have in Ireland. I didn’t want to disrespect anyone and especially not a football team from Andorra as I respect them big time.

“But I respect Terry and I respect West Ham so I wanted to show respect to Terry as he coached this team and he took them for pre-season in Ireland and knew them all well. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to him. Also the majority of the first team is in Ireland so that was behind our decision to do it like this.

“Overall it was a good result and a good display, especially after we scored a couple of goals. The second half was much more fluid.

“The rest of the team did well and Sakho took his goals very well, which is always important for strikers.

“It was good for the senior players to have a game and it was good for the youngsters to play in front of a full stadium on a big European night. I am really pleased with the way they played.”