Slaven Bilic will not be offered a new contract by West Ham United this summer because of the club’s worrying run of form.
It means the manager is set to go into the final year of his three-year deal with his future uncertain. The likelihood is Bilic will then only be offered a new contract next January – at the earliest - if there is a significant improvement in results next season.
A review of Bilic’s position will take place at the end of this campaign – as is the usual policy at West Ham with their managers – although talk over him signing a new deal then, which emerged several weeks ago, has now been shelved, Telegraph Sport understands.
What should be noted, however, is that West Ham do not want to sack Bilic, who remains hugely popular and is a very capable manager, and there is an acknowledgement that he has had to cope with a difficult season. The general perception in football is also that Bilic has done a good job and deserves backing.
The club has moved to a new stadium, the London Stadium, which proved problematic while new signings have largely disappointed and there has been a spate of injuries although there is some unexpected good news with Michail Antonio’s hamstring injury not as serious as first feared. He is pencilled in to return against Arsenal on April 5.
Antonio pulled out of the recent England squad but is already back in light training at West Ham’s Rush Green training ground.
There was also, importantly, the disruptive behaviour of Dimitri Payet, West Ham’s best player, who agitated to leave and forced his way out in January having destabilised the team.
There were claims that the West Ham board was unhappy with Bilic denouncing Payet’s bad behaviour but that is not the case although the club did hope to hold him until the end of the season. The exasperated manager fully informed them that he intended to go public over Payet, that it was best for his squad and was backed in his actions.
Similarly Bilic urged the club, having brought in Robert Snodgrass and Jose Fonte to bolster the team in the January window, to wait until the summer to spend the £25million they received for Payet so he could re-build them.
However frustrations have become evident with co-owner David Sullivan feeling moved to publically apologise to fans after the recent 3-2 home defeat to Leicester City and describe the next three matches – at Hull and Arsenal and then at home to Swansea City as “vital”. After that West Ham face Sunderland.
They go into those run of fixtures having failed to keep a clean sheet in their past eight league games and having failed to win in their last five matches which have led to suggestions that Bilic is now fighting to save his job.
While that is not the case it is clear that the club’s board expect an upturn in results quickly and are hoping for an improvement from now until the end of the season. An added complication, though, for Bilic is that he is without several key players – including midfielder Pedro Obiang and central defender Winston Reid with Diafra Sakho, who has not played since November, finally back in training but not expected back until next month.
There have been discussions earlier this season as to whether the players have trained hard enough, and Bilic then acknowledged that they were not showing the same intensity, but that stopped with an impressive run of results, and good management, as he lifted the team clear of the threat of relegation.
Now West Ham face Hull, who are fighting for their lives, sandwiched between Burnley and Bournemouth and 12th in the Premier League on 33 points. They need at least one more win, and probably two, to banish the threat of being relegated.
It may well be that when the board talks to Bilic at the end of the campaign that they suggest he freshens up his backroom staff and there have been talks in the past about bringing in some new coaches – which the Croatian has, understandably, vetoed. The club would not attempt to impose anyone on Bilic.
At the same time Bilic, who led West Ham to an outstanding seventh place finish in his first season in charge, the last campaign at Upton Park, remains extremely popular at the club and with the supporters.
The former West Ham defender is also experienced enough and sanguine enough to know the situation around his future and how it may pan out. He remains fully committed to the club and certainly wants to stay beyond the remainder of his current contract but is not expected to be demanding a new one this summer.
West Ham’s current owners also do not have a history of hiring and firing managers and have, in the past, allowed their contracts to run down before letting them go. This happened with Bilic’s predecessor, Sam Allardyce, while, before him, they stuck with Avram Grant and only got rid of him once they were relegated to the Championship.
Encouragingly West Ham have also seen a strong response to season tickets renewals and with 52,000 supporters on their waiting list are already confident that all their home games will be sold out next season.
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