Slaven Bilic - The First Interview

Slaven Bilic has revealed his targets and ambitious after being appointed as West Ham United's new manager
West Ham United’s new manager Slaven Bilic has revealed his ambitions and targets after being unveiled as the Hammers’ new boss.

The 46-year-old Croatian arrives in east London later this month determined to help the Club he played for 54 times establish themselves in the new Stadium at the top of the English and European game.

However, the law graduate knows he, his staff, players and West Ham supporters will have to work hard together to take the Club where he and they all want it to go.

Here is what the new manager had to say in his first exclusive interview with…

Slaven, firstly, what do you recall of your 18 months at the Boleyn Ground in the mid-1990s? 

SB: “West Ham is a special club. Wherever I have gone, I have always said that some of the best days of my football life were during my one and half seasons with West Ham.

“It is not only business; it is personal, it is emotional. I felt it when I played there when I was at Chadwell Heath, where it was like a big family. With Julian Dicks, John Moncur and Ian Bishop.

“Every day was something special and the fans at that point wanted us to not only stay up and win the game but to win in style but they wanted to see good football. It was not just about winning.

“I remember one game, we were beating Chelsea 2-1 at home and we were trying to waste a bit of time near the end of the game and the fans were saying we had to play. ‘Boom, come on!’ So they are special.”

Are West Ham’s fans among the best you’ve experienced?

SB: “I’m not objective when it comes to West Ham as I played there. But it’s not only me but other people that didn’t play for West Ham they all thought the same. It is a special club. All those bits and pieces and have made my decision quite easy, but the most important was the ambition of the Club.

“I remember the fans at West Ham. I felt it when I played and that roar at Upton Park, before a ball was kicked, those ten seconds, when you feel something. That stayed in my memory.”

What are your ambitions as West Ham boss? What do you hope to achieve?

SB: “I’ve been in football a long time and wherever you go the ambition is sky high. But with West Ham, I found the ambitions to be realistic and the ambition is right.

“The ambition is to try to be top ten, definitely and then improve on that. First season, if we can finish eighth, ninth or tenth. Then, in the space of a few seasons, with the Stadium and everything, with hype, with probably a little bit more budget, with good planning and good play, nobody can stop us dreaming of European places or if we have a brilliant season to try to break into the Champions League places.

“To win a trophy, to win a cup. You have to believe in that to achieve it. If you don't believe in that then you’re definitely not going to do that. It doesn't have to be an obsession in a negative way. If you don't believe it, who will believe it?   

“Where it's going to take us, I don't know, but logically if you play well and you improve your squad, if your players are playing more compact and more fluid with the ball, it should get you up the league.”       

What’s your managerial outlook?

SB: “My nature is very optimistic, but realistically optimistic. I hope that we're going to achieve big things with West Ham.

"I felt good there, I can hope that I will enjoy it at West Ham and have the success like I had with my previous club Besiktas."
My nature is very optimistic, but realistically optimistic. I hope that we're going to achieve big things with West Ham
How does it feel to be manager for the final season at the Boleyn Ground?

SB: “It's a privilege. It’s impossible to have a bigger bond with a Club in such a small period of time. I clicked with the players, the fans, with everybody. After a couple of weeks, it was straight off and it lasted for one and a half seasons. It was brilliant.

“It is a privilege to be in charge of the team for its last season playing in a stadium that they've played in for such a long time.”

How much do you know about the squad you’re inheriting?

SB: “I had many Croatian players who played in England. I'm a big football fan first of all and like the majority of them, I was following the Premier League as well. So I know a lot about West Ham's current squad and the team is good, it has a good balance.

“They were a little bit unlucky last year with the number of injuries in a crucial stage of the season, but the manager has done a good job and is leaving me a good team. I definitely think the team can improve, as I said, last year they had some brilliant games, especially in the first half of the season. It will be my job to improve it and make it better.

“Recently, in the last couple of weeks I took in ten West Ham games and I saw them all, when it was not obvious but likely that I might get the job, after the season finished in Turkey.

“I didn't want to speak to anyone before the season had finished in Turkey, which was 31 May, because of my respect to my club, Besiktas, and because of course the season hadn't finished.” 

You’ve already had plenty of success in England, with Croatia and more recently with Besiktas?   

SB: “With Croatia, in the first qualification rounds for Euro 2008, we beat you twice, we got one of the most shocking results, 3-2 at Wembley but then in 2010 you hammered us 4-1 and 5-1, so it's even.

“That counts a little but it's in the past. I know where I'm going despite not having managed a club in the Premier League or the Championship, but I know where I'm going and I know it's a very tough league but I can't wait for that."

Tell us about your style as a manager. What sort of team can West Ham fans expect?

SB: “To be successful you have to be good enough in every aspect of the team, you have to defend with numbers, you have to be very compact, very organised but also you have to attack with numbers and be good on the ball.

“The teams that I've managed so far, whether that be Croatia, Lokomotiv Moscow, Besiktas or Hadjuk Split, they were all teams with very high aims. To qualify, to top group with Croatia, to win the league with Split and Besiktas, with Lokomotiv top three, top five, so my style had to be dominant.

“With Besiktas, in 90 per cent of our games we had more possession, you are the better side, you are the one that is attacking and the opponent is on the counter. But in the games where we had to be compact like against Arsenal, we weren't dominant. So you have to be both. But I like my team to play football, to play good football.”