Video - Bilic ready for action

Slaven Bilic gives his reaction to the Hammers' UEFA Europa League fixtures and the opening Barclays Premier League games to West Ham TV
Slaven Bilic is ready to get down to work as West Ham United manager and is relishing the Hammers’ start to the 2015/16 season.

The new boss was back on familiar ground when he returned to Chadwell Heath on Thursday, where he took time out from a packed schedule to talk to West Ham TV, before preparing to fly out to the squad’s Irish training camp on Friday.

Bilic gave his exclusive reaction to the Hammers’ opening Barclays Premier League and UEFA Europa League fixtures, before expressing his excitement at getting down to work with his players and staff on the training pitch.

West Ham begin their maiden UEFA Europa League campaign with a first qualifying round tie with Andorran league runners-up FC Lusitans, the first leg of which will take place at the Boleyn Ground on Thursday 2 July.

With a potential second qualifying round trip to Maltese Cup winners Birkirkara or Armenian Premier League runners-up Ulisses to follow, Bilic says the early start will give first-team players a chance to get minutes under their belts, and young professionals the opportunity to experience senior football.

“We are going to treat the Europa League with respect, of course” the former West Ham and Croatia defender confirmed. “It’s great for the Club, great for the fans and great for everyone.

“For the players, this is why you play for the whole year, to try to qualify. On the other hand, we didn’t qualify for the group stage, so we have to start very early so will we not jeopardise or risk ourselves ahead of 8 August.

“We have to be careful. We are very confident. We have an Andorran team and, while everyone is playing football nowadays on the one hand, we are favourites of course and this is a chance for some players who did not play regularly and some youngsters to get a game.

“After that, it becomes even more serious because I know Malta and I know Armenia and there are decent football players and they are definitely good teams and if we are going to play them, it’s going to be their game of the season and all that.

“We want to progress and we’ll treat it respectfully, as I said in the beginning. We are hungry for European nights, especially at Upton Park, but on the other hand we must be very careful not to use the players who had a very long season last year and call them four weeks before the season and make their holidays short. It would be good at the start, maybe, but by the end of the season it would be totally negative.

“We have to get the balance and I am sure we are going to do it.”
We are going to treat the Europa League with respect, of course. It’s great for the Club, great for the fans and great for everyone
Concentrating on the Barclays Premier League, the Croatian takes his squad to Arsenal on the opening day on Saturday 8 August, ahead of home games with Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth. August ends with a trip to Liverpool, before September begins with the visit of Newcastle United and an away game at Manchester City.

“It’s a difficult start, but on the other hand it is good,” Bilic told West Ham TV. “This league is very well-known because there are no easy games, so the schedule can’t be easy.

“If you look at our first three away games, they are big ones as we have Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. We also have three home games which are also difficult, but they are promising, let’s say.

“I’m happy with the start. We have a great game to start at Arsenal and history says it is better to play Arsenal in August then in November.

“It’s not extremely difficult, it’s not extremely light, it could be better but this is the Premier League and we have to play all the teams twice sooner or later. As it is, I am quite happy with the fixtures.”

*Tickets for Slaven Bilic’s first game as West Ham United manager, the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round first leg visit of FC Lusitans to the Boleyn Ground on Thursday 2 July, are on sale for just £10 for Adults and £5 for U16s now here!