Exclusive - Super Slaven speaks

Slaven Bilic won Euro 2016 with his punditry and now has his sights set on a victorious second season in charge of West Ham United.

The manager, who stole the show during ITV’s coverage of the summer showpiece with his lucid observations in France, is now preparing the Hammers for the 2016/17 campaign in the United States.

Bilic is putting his squad through their paces in Seattle ahead of Tuesday’s opening pre-season match with the hometown Sounders, before heading south east for a second fixture with Carolina RailHawks on 12 July.

West Ham TV sat down with the boss to discuss his busy summer, the Club’s new signings, future transfer targets, pre-season and the Hammers’ prospects for the upcoming campaign.

Below, you can read the highlights of an engaging exclusive interview, but to watch the whole thing simply click on the video player above!
Slaven, let’s start with the summer – you seemed to get a lot of enjoyment from the role?

“I hadn’t done it before on British TV, so it was good. My family was there with me in Paris, so it was a privilege to spend 12 days there with them, and to watch games with football people with big knowledge. It was fun for me.

“I would have watched the games anyway, but it was a good environment, so as you say I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Aside from your punditry and table-top celebration of Dimitri Payet’s goal against Albania, did it also serve as a good scouting exercise?

“Yes, it was useful because you are watching some of the players on your list and it helps, of course. It is very rare that clubs are just buying players based on the Euros – they count, but on the other hand the players have a different state of mind because they are so motivated by playing for their countries on the biggest stage.

“It can add ten per cent to your opinion of a player, but you don’t buy them just because of what they did at the Euros.”
Talking of scouting, we have signed two new players in Sofiane Feghouli and Havard Nordtveit…

“They are top international players. OK, they didn’t play first-team football in England but those people who know football know we have got a couple of very good players who have played for top teams in top leagues in Moenchengladbach and Valencia. To get them on free transfers is great business for the club and we’re so happy to have them.

“Nordtveit’s natural position is holding midfielder whether alone or in a pair, but he can play centre-back in a three or two, and can also step in as a right or even left full-back.”

There are seven or eight weeks to go until the transfer window closes, so can you summarise the business you hope to do?

“We are hoping but we are not desperate. With strikers, we have said from the last season finished that it’s not a secret that we want a top one, but we are not so desperate or panic or rush because we have really good strikers. If we could get one top striker, he would add to those we have already.”

We are in Seattle, Washington, this week and the Seahawks’ training facilities must be among the best you have ever used?

“Yes, they are amazing. We have everything. The people are nice and the facilities are great – the dressing room, the gym, the hotel are all top-drawer and it was good to come here. It’s a good place to be for the first part of the pre-season. It’s a nice city.”
We have a game with Seattle Sounders on Tuesday evening…

“It’s not ideal [to play a fixture so early in pre-season], but we have trained for a few days and on Monday on a bigger pitch so the players can play on Tuesday.

“We have 19 outfield players, so most will play 45 minutes. It’s a game, but we’re going to treat it [more] like a training game, because the most important thing is that nobody gets injured.

“Normally you like to train for at least a week or ten days before the first game, so it’s not ideal like this, but hopefully it’s going to be all right.”

Looking further ahead, with a move to the London Stadium, the visit of Juventus, Europa League football and the Premier League coming up, what are your feelings about the new season?

“It’s exciting. First we have qualification games for Europa League and the start of the Premier League, which is very similar to last season’s – very tough.

“We know we are without nine or ten players here because some are at the Euros, some were at the Copa America and some played in Africa for their countries and are still on holiday.

“We have a lot of young players with us, which is good for them, and good for us because they bring energy into the training and some of them are really promising and definitely have futures with West Ham. This is great motivation for them.

“We have a good bunch of players now and, with the players who will join us during pre-season and the new players we are going to try to get, I’m very optimistic.”