From the Terraces - Nick Hilton

Lifelong West Ham fan Nick Hilton gives his verdict on the 2015/16 fixtures

Lifelong West Ham United fan Nick Hilton gives us his verdict on the 2015/16 fixtures and the upcoming season...

What are your first impressions looking at the new fixture list?

“You always look for the first game which is Arsenal away. It’s a bit of a looming obstacle. Both teams are very capable of having two very different halves of a season so whatever happens won’t be a great indicator for the rest of the season. In that way, it’s a bit of a comfort blanket but if we win it could be a litmus test. It’s certainly going to be a very hard game. 

“After Arsenal we play Leicester and Bournemouth at home so there are definitely opportunities to get off to a good start and not get bogged down.” 

How long do you think it will take before we see the best of Slaven Bilic’s side?

“We have a tough start to the season, playing away at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. I think the Bilic era will be defined more by the way we play against the teams around us and the teams we should be getting points off.     

“Last season we took points off teams we weren’t expected to but then we didn’t pick up points against some of the teams that we really should’ve done. So it’s the games against teams like Bournemouth which are the real test.” 

What do you make of Slaven Bilic’s appointment as new Manager?

“I think it’s a good appointment. He’s been mentioned as manager for a few years, even before Sam Allardyce was appointed. We flirted with the idea of appointing a more seasoned manager in Marcelo Bielsa or Unai Emery which may have dampened the effect of Bilic’s arrival. But he’s taken Croatia to the quarter-finals of the Euros and taken teams in the Europa League. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the Premier League. Coming from Turkey, it’s not the most competitive league but the cauldron-like atmosphere and pressure from the fans will’ve helped him.” 

Another facet to the upcoming season is the Europa League, where does that rank among the priorities?

“I think you always have to be wary of relegation. With the Europa League there are so many rounds of qualifying, but depending on the draw it may just turn out to be a rigorous pre-season. I remember when we were drawn against Palermo and it’s perfectly possible that we may be drawn against another high calibre team. 

“If you look at our fixtures in March and April we’ve got some tough games so it’s important we accumulate a significant number of points before then.” 

The last ever home game will be against Swansea City on Saturday 7 May, perhaps in ordinary circumstances a hard game to get excited about…

“I don’t think so. Swansea are exactly the type of club we should want for that game. If we played against a traditional top four team I don’t they would really care about it being our last game. But West Ham and Swansea are modern Premier League rivals, in a similar position and status. I’m sure it’ll be an exciting game regardless of where either team are in the league.” 

What do you think is a realistic target for West Ham this season?

“I think a top ten finish will be a stretch. It’s more important to have a solid, consistent season then going games without taking a point. To finish somewhere between 13th and 8th I think it realistic, to have a consistent season would be nice, it’s not something we’ve done very often.”