Slaven - This season has made us all stronger

Slaven Bilic

Asked this week to identify the turning point in a season that has seen West Ham United bounce back from early troubles to climb into the top half of the Premier League table, Slaven Bilic's answer was clear.

There hasn't been one. 

“It isn’t a turning point that has made the difference,” said the Hammers boss. 

“We can talk about the game against Crystal Palace away in October, we can talk about the two wins we had at home against Burnley and Hull in the space of three days – two 1-0 wins, two penalties.

“We can talk about that period when we had four big games against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, and got two points away at United and Liverpool.

“But the reason we have turned things around is that we didn’t stop believing. 

“We continued to fight and knew that the only way that we were going to get out was, basically, by sticking together and working hard. And that is the key.”

As he prepares to take his team into Monday night’s mouth-watering London derby against Premier League leaders Chelsea – for which tickets are still available on the Ticket Exchange – Bilic is understandably proud of the spirit and togetherness that has underpinned a run of six wins and three draws in the last 12 league matches.

And the Croatian, who is now approaching his 12th year in management, admitted that he and his players are stronger for the experience of the campaign so far. Nor would he swap the ups and downs of this season for a less eventful ride. 

“I consider this season as a great one,” he said. “For me individually, and for the team, and for the club, because this season we experienced some negative things, some positive things, but mainly a lot of new things.

“I am 48 now. I was manager of my country and I was manager of Besiktas in Turkey where the pressure is basically bigger than here.

“So I got used to the job a little bit. But was it hard? Yes. It’s still hard. Of course I wasn’t enjoying the defeats but sometimes you have to sacrifice something to get something.

“They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

“It’s great because now I can see it as a great experience. For me personally, for the players, and for the club.

“I wouldn’t change it. I would change September and October. But after that, when you’ve made it and you get out of that, the experience is priceless and you benefit from it in the future.

“I wouldn’t swap when I was under pressure or the team was under pressure. I wouldn’t swap it for a steady season.”