Slaven Bilic insists he saw plenty in West Ham United’s stirring revival at Norwich City on Saturday to prove that there will be no let up from his side in the final third of the Barclays Premier League season.
Following the weekend’s breathless 2-2 draw at Carrow Road, the Hammers are one point and one place better off than at this stage last season.
And while the Hammers’ form dipped dramatically in the latter stages of last term, Bilic expects an altogether different story this time around, not least with the likes of Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho soon to return to action.
Next up for Bilic and his charges is Sunday's trip to Ewood Park in the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup and an opportunity to go one better than the Hammers' last 16 exit at West Bromwich Albion this time last year.
“We're going to try to be different [to last season] and we're going to give everything,” the Croat confirmed.
“This kind of performance gives us hope that it will be different. We have the quality, we have the team spirit, we have the character, we have legs, the only problem is the injuries. But we are expecting a few players to come back after the Blackburn game and it gives us hope, but only if we continue to play like the last half an hour, or if we improve and raise our level of the game.
“But we will not put the season to bed now, no way, we have no right to do it. Even if you have no chance to move up and down, this is the Premier League. We have fans, we have a team, we are representing West Ham, no matter if it's a friendly or the Premier League. So no way is that going to happen.”
In all likelihood, Dimitri Payet will be pivotal to the Hammers’ charge for European football, just as he was at Carrow Road. Less than 48 hours after pledging his long-term future to the Club, the Frenchman scored the first and created the second.
Reflecting on Payet’s summer switch to east London, Bilic is thankful that the Hammers stole a march on their rivals for the midfielder’s signature.
Bilic continued: “It wasn't a record deal for West Ham. Nowhere near that, I don't think. But we were first to react, or we used the situation that for some reason bigger clubs didn't try to get him. I don't know why, it was a bit of a surprise.
“To be fair, I thought it was going to be possible, but I didn't believe we were going to do it that quickly. Credit to the Chairman, he did it very, very quickly, in the space of ten days and he was our player. I was happy then and I'm happy now.”
Meanwhile, the Hammers' exertions at Carrow Road is proof, says Bilic, of the quality that now exists throughout the Premier League, with increased spending power enabling clubs across the board to invest heavily in their playing staff.
“It's the Premier League and every team is good enough. I'm not talking about resilience, I'm not talking about physical presence or character, that is all Premier League clubs, I'm talking about the quality.
“Because with the money in the league, look at Norwich and how much money they have spent a few weeks ago, that gives the so-called smaller clubs the chance to improve and to close that gap to the big guns and that's what we're trying to do. But not only us. You have Leicester, which is the best example in Europe. But Leicester are not where they are because of the team spirit and the character, they are there because they have quality players and that goes with every club.”