West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic faced the media for the first time at the Boleyn Ground on Wednesday and looks forward to his first season in charge of the Club.
Hi Slaven, from your point of view, how pleasing is it to be in charge of West Ham United at such an important time?
“I am very glad to be here and have said it from day one. I am very excited and I am looking forward to the job. It’s a big privilege, it’s a big club in a big league. I’ve played here and I enjoyed it here.
“I’ve played everywhere but this is where I probably played the best football of my life. So I like it, it’s a family club. I am not the only one who is saying that.
“This league is, if not the best, the hardest league to compete in. The expectations are huge. The club want to improve but the competition is unbelievable. This is the last season at the stadium before we move to the new stadium, so it is very exciting and I can’t wait to get started.
What is the key to having a successful European campaign and then playing well in the League? You could potentially play eight games before the group stages so how will you cope with all these games?
“It is a very difficult balancing act and has been unusual until this week because we had two groups of players. We didn’t want to bring the first team back too early because we are going to need them until May without having a proper break.
“The Europa League has to be respected, it’s a big opportunity and a privilege for any club so we have to make a balance. So it was a bit strange to use two different teams, one for Andorra and the players started early.
“But Bingo, it was like a jackpot and was great for the younger players and some First Team Players who didn’t play much last year for whatever reasons. But it was a good experience for them.
“The other first-team players then started on time and we went to Cork. We had two squads and I was in Ireland, flying to London, then flying to Andorra and back so it wasn’t ideal but from the game on Thursday we are starting to have a normal preparation for the Premier League.
“To be fair we would have played on Thursday anyway, so to have a competitive game against a decent side is good. It’s not ideal that we have to fly to Malta next week and we basically lose Wednesday, Thursday and half of the Friday for one game.
“But we want to qualify and play in the Europa League. It’s good for the Club and good for the spectators. It is good to play against teams with different styles of play. It can boost your confidence.”
Can you tell us anything about a move for Javier Hernandez?
“The fact is so far in my career, I have never talked about other players who are not past of West Ham United.
“We are trying to be active in the transfer window and so far the board have been very active in the transfer window. We are still trying to improve our squad and bring players who in my opinion and the Club's opinion can lift us up. We already have a good team but I will discuss it inside the Club.”
What have you made of the new signings and how have they settled in?
“They are really good players and we wanted the.. The first one, Pedro Obiang, he’s been a regular at Sampdoria for a few years, he is a really good player. Box-to-box, he can play in several different systems and positions.
“Dimitri Payet is a player who I really wanted. I feel the Club needed someone who is a good link between midfield and the attackers.
“He is a very creative player, a No10 as they used to call them with quality. He can do everything, goals, assists, I have been his admirer for a long time.
“I have tried to get him at a few of my previous clubs but it was impossible. Not only the strikers but the players behind him, midfielders like Mark Noble will benefit from him.
“We wanted to buy an additional centre-back and my first target was Angelo Ogbonna and we signed him. He is a player I’ve known for a long time because Italy were in the same group as Croatia in Euro 2012.
“I followed every player that we could have faced in the Italy squad and at that time Ogbonna was just emerging at Torino. After the Euros, Juventus who were already champions signed him.
“He played there in one of the best defences in Europe. He is still close to the Italian squad.
“He wanted to come here, he has great determination and quality and is going to be really good for us.
“We then signed Carl Jenkinson on loan. He did very well here last season, he had great determination to stay here for at least another year and he is a West Ham fan which is always good.
“Stephen Hendrie and Darren Randolph have also both impressed me in training. We lost some players and we need to find a balance. Don't forget last season the team was really good, but we are trying to make it better.”
What do you feel you are capable of achieving this season?
“That is a question that is so easy to answer one month before the season starts because you can say whatever you want. I want to try and bring stability and make us better.
“I want the guys to improve individually and as a team. If we are going to play week after week and be better in ball possession and have more killer instinct, that should put us in a position where we are going to have more chances than our opponent.
“We should score more goals and that should lift us in the table. Where that is going to be I don't know.
“I am quite confident and have a good team. There is a good atmosphere and it was the same back in 1996 when I was a player here.
“Every day we worked hard but also we were smiling. It is the same now. I would like it to continue like that and I am going to give everything.”
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