- Gary Lineker backs the Hammers to enjoy success at London Stadium
- Former England striker was making his first visit to Stratford since London 2012
- BBC presenter interviewed Slaven Bilic for next week's Premier League Show
Gary Lineker expects West Ham United to settle in and enjoy a successful future at the Club’s ‘fabulous’ London Stadium home.
The former England striker was in E20 to interview manager Slaven Bilic for the BBC’s Premier League Show – his first trip to the Stadium since he hosted coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Lineker also took time out to speak to West Ham TV, who he told the Hammers could well emulate his former club Leicester City, who won the Premier League after moving from Filbert Street to their new King Power Stadium.
“It’s fabulous,” said the Match of the Day presenter. “I was here in 2012 and did quite a lot of work on the Olympics with the Beeb, but this is the first time I have seen it as a football stadium, as West Ham’s home.
“It’s hugely impressive and I’m sure, in time, and it always takes time as I remember when Leicester moved from Filbert Street to their new ground, that West Ham will familiarise themselves with this place.
“Of course it is different, and of course it takes time to settle in, both as a Club and in terms of playing, as we’ve seen. It’s like Spurs in the Champions League, who are a totally different team at Wembley than they are in the league at White Hart Lane.”
As a former player himself, Lineker also appreciates that West Ham’s players will need time to get used to their new surroundings, including the shape and perspective of the much-larger London Stadium.
“It’s familiarity and that’s where home advantage comes in, whether that be the dressing room, the walk out of the tunnel, the crowd, your spots on the field and the overall perspective,” he confirmed.
“It’s just familiarity and it takes time, so it’s not particularly surprising that the Hammers have slightly struggled at home this season, but that will change, I’m sure.”
You’ve got a good manager here. He knows what he is doing, is a super-bright guy and had a brilliant season last season
Gary Lineker on Slaven Bilic
The Hammers have actually lost just three of their ten home matches in all competitions, and are unbeaten in their last four games at London Stadium.
West Ham will want to extend that record in Saturday’s London derby with Arsenal, but Lineker believes the ‘super-bright’ Bilic is the perfect man to take them forward.
“If you win two or three home games, all of a sudden the place is a fortress and things are different,” he continued. “Obviously Saturday is a big game against Arsenal, who are pretty consistent, so it’s going to be a tough one for West Ham, but Arsenal won’t fancy it.
“I think West Ham are lower than they should be in the league and I confidently predict they will finish comfortably in mid-table. It’s very tight down there and a couple of wins and you’re in the top half.
“You’ve got a good manager here. He knows what he is doing, is a super-bright guy and had a brilliant season last season, which sometimes falsely lifts expectations and you can be a victim of your own success. I’m sure that won’t be the case.”
The interview, which will be screened on BBC One next Wednesday 7 December at 10pm, promises to be hugely insightful, if Lineker’s feedback is anything to go by.
“I was enthralled by the whole thing,” he said. “We talked about all sorts of different things – education, intelligence of footballers, his background, the Civil War in his homeland and his thoughts on football.
“He’s an exceptionally bright guy, he speaks four languages and has got a good sense of humour and a real passion.
“It’s nice to have a long interview with someone and feel what they’re about. I just sat there and listened really, because he can talk!”