By: Scott McGlynn
The announcement earlier this month that West Ham United had appointed Slaven Bilić as their new manager came as no great surprise. Following the announcement by Sam Allardyce at the end of last season of his intention to leave the club after four seasons, Bilić was the bookmaker’s favourite from the start.
Bilić takes over at West Ham for what could be one of the biggest seasons in their long history. Next season will be their last one at the Boleyn Ground before the move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. At present the Boleyn Ground has a capacity of 35,000 but the move to the Olympic Stadium with its capacity of 54,000 will enable West Ham to greatly increase their support and it’s a figure which co-chairman David Gold fully expects the club to utilise, particularly through season ticket sales.
Gold has also commented that the club are aiming for success this season, both at home and abroad in the Europa League. West Ham qualified for the next season’s Europa League through the UEFA Fair Play League and will play their first game on July 2nd. Although some clubs may have concerns playing a competitive game that early in the season, for West Ham it offers competitive matches which will hopefully enable them to come into the start of the English Premier League a month later in form with a number of wins under their belt. It will also offer valuable game time for their strikers Andy Carroll and Dafra Sakho as they make their way back from injury.
Carroll missed the majority of last season with an ankle injury and then a knee injury that required surgery as West Ham finished in 12th spot in the Premier League. Both Slaven Bilić and the West Ham fans will be hoping that Carroll can enjoy an injury free season and help the club in their pursuit of silverware. Sakho missed the last two months of the season with a thigh injury having scored 12 goals for the club since signing last summer. Both Carroll and Sakho are well into their rehabilitation and the early season Europa League games will offer them the perfect opportunity to not only gain match fitness but also hopefully see them both get back to scoring ways.
If West Ham can finally get an injury-free Andy Carroll for a length of time, coupled with the attacking prowess of Dafra Sakho then they may well leave the Boleyn Ground next May as the holders of silverware.
West Ham are 67 (66/1) for Europa League glory and are 34 (33/1) for League Cup success. For FA Cup glory they are also 34 (33/1).