Bilic's Backroom Boys

West Ham United’s pre-season trip to Cork has seen new manager Slaven Bilic meet some of his new players. Academy Director Terry Westley has taken the majority of
training in Ireland but Bilic was joined upon his arrival by some of his new backroom team – Nikola Jurcevic, Edin Terzic and Miljenko Rak.

Nikola Jurcevic was a midfielder, standing just short of 6’, who played for Dinamo Zagreb and NK Zagreb with a spell in Belgium with Antwerp in the 1988/89 season sandwiched in between. He moved to Austria in 1991, signing for the club now known as Red Bull Salzburg, and spent four years there, scoring 42 goals in 130 appearances.

From there he joined German side Freiburg; while he was with the German club, Jurcevic appeared three times for Croatia at Euro ’96. Wearing number 2, he made his first appearance in the tournament as an 82nd minute substitute in the 3-0 win over Denmark before playing the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 defeat to Portugal. He started in a holding midfield role for the 2-1 quarter-final loss to eventual tournament winners Germany before being substituted in the 78th minute, a game which saw former Hammer Igor Stimac sent off with the score at 1-1. Bilic, incidentally, played every minute of Croatia’s tournament.

In 1997, Jurcevic returned to Salzburg where he ended his playing career in 1999. He has since managed former clubs NK Zagreb in 2002/03, when they finished 6th in the league and reached the quarter-finals in the Croatian Cup, and Dinamo Zagreb in 2003/04, where he won the Croatian Cup and finished runners-up in the league. A brief spell as manager back at Salzburg lasted just over a month in the spring of 2005 before a similarly short spell in charge of Slaven Belupo in his homeland. Jurcevic, along with ex-Derby midfielder Aljosa Asanovic, was appointed as one of Bilic’s assistants for the national team and he remained in post between 2006 and 2012. He has since followed Bilic to Lokomotiv Moscow and Besiktas.

Edin Terzic is a 32-year-old who was Bilic’s first-team coach at Besiktas; Super Slav has described Terzic as being “really good with players”. Terzic, a right-sided midfielder, played in the German lower leagues from 2001 to 2013, with his most notable club being SG Wattenscheid in the 2006/07 season. He was assistant coach for Borussia Dortmund’s Under-19s and Under-17s between 2010 and 2013.

Miljenko Rak is a 67-year-old who will join as fitness coach. He held a similar role when working with the Croatia handball team who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and with Janica Kostelic, a Croatian alpine skier who is the most successful participant in her sport in the history of the Winter Olympics. Rak also worked with Bilic during his time at Besiktas.

A collection of Bilic’s former Hammers’ team-mates have also been the subject of speculation regarding roles at the club since the Croatian’s appointment. Steve Potts is already working with the Development Squad, while Julian Dicks’ appointment as a first-team coaching assistant was confirmed yesterday. John Moncur, Ian Bishop, John Hartson and Steve Lomas have all been linked with coaching positions.

Player News

Aaron Cresswell Signs New 5 Year Contract

Well the big news we had been warned to expect tonight is indeed very welcome, although it’s not the big signing some were hoping for. Hammer of the Year Aaron Cresswell has signed a new five year contract, with an option for a further two years. It’s good to have him tied into a long term future and should ward off any suitors who had been planning to pounce.

The full story is on the club website HERE but here’s a short quote from Aaron on why he’s signed on the dotted line…

Thankfully last year was a good season for me personally to play every minute of every game, so it’s nice to finally commit my future to West Ham. I was at Ipswich 12 months ago and when West Ham came in for me there was only one place for me. I jumped straight in the car, down the A12 and signed for West Ham. So for me to play for a club like West Ham, week in week out, is massive and these are exciting times. It’s going to be a massive year for us, the last year at Upton Park. But it’s exciting times going into one of the best stadiums in Europe, even in the world. It’s going to be a good summer, hopefully a few more faces will come in and we’ll have a good year.”

In other news, Kevin Nolan is rumoured to be holding talks about a return to Bolton according to KUMB. The Mail report that West Ham have agreed personal terms with Alex Song, but there is no agreement between the club and Barcelona regarding a free transfer or fee.

Transfer Gossip

Please Let the Borini Rumour Be Untrue

Rumours are swirling that we might be in the market to sign Liverpool striker Fabio Borini. No, really. It’s the kind of rumour that makes you want to bang your head on the desk and shriek “Nooooooooooo!” The fee is said to be £8 million, can you believe.

In his entire career he’s only made 94 first team appearances, scoring 24 goals. At Sunderland he managed 7 in 32. At Liverpool he scored 2 in 25. With that ratio we might as well have kept Carlton Cole and saved ourselves £8 million. I am very much hoping this is all agent talk and there’s nothing in it. Surely we can do better than this. Loic Remy is a proven goalscorer and wouldn’t cost much, if any more. Given the choice of the two I suspect I know which 98% of us would go for.

Or do you disagree?

UPDATE: Claret & Hugh has a quote from a club spokesman saying there’s nothing in this rumour. Long may that remain so.


Just When you thought it was safe, Julian Dicks Is Back

I bring glad tidings. Julian Dicks is the club’s latest signing! No, not as a new left back but as part of Slaven Bilic’s coaching staff. I have to say that I think this is a brilliant move by Bilic. I hope he joins him in the dugout. It’s at moments like this I am glad I sit just behind it, although that won’t be the case when we move to the Olympic Stadiu, (Grrr).

Julian commented on his new role…

‘I was with the Ladies last year and I thoroughly enjoyed that, but to get the opportunity to work with Slaven, his coaching staff and the first-team players is a dream come true. This is a Premier League club with some very good players already in the squad and some more very good players set to come in this summer. It is exciting times for me and exciting times for West Ham. I met up with Slaven last week and, although we had not met in person for a few years, it was like we had never been apart. We had a hug and a kiss and sat down and talked all about West Ham and all about football. ‘We had a great relationship when we played together in the same team here and I am sure we will work well together again as manager and coach. And while Dicks may not have seen Bilic for a few years – he has kept an eye on his managerial career from a far. His teams play a high-tempo pressing game and I am sure he will instil that style of play here at West Ham. ‘I have always said that the first quality that players must illustrate is hard work. If you then have very good players who work very hard, then you can achieve great things and hopefully we can do that here at West Ham. I understand that I will be involved on the training pitch and in the meetings and I cannot wait to get down to work with Slaven, his assistant and his other coaches.’

What brilliant news for Aaron Cresswell and Stephen Hendrie too. They couldn’t wish for a better coach than the man who has done it all at left back.

The Terminator is back!

Talking Point

Is The Europa League Worth It?

West Ham’s latest journey into European competition starts this Thursday against the part timers of FC Lusitanos. Now come on, had anyone ever heard of our opponents before this draw was made? In fact some of us might not have even heard of their homeland Andorra? I will leave Dan Coker to give us the run down on our opposition with his match preview, but really this will be a cake walk whatever side we put out. As we progress through the rounds the ties will obviously get harder and at some stage we may even face some opposition we have heard of before?

That last sentence probably alludes to most that I am not endeared to the prospect of the Europa League and you would be right. When I read the recent posts of the majority on here I get the impression that I am in the minority when I feel this competition is the last thing we need just as we appear to be stabilising ourselves back in the PL? I can understand those fans that attend matches, and in particular those who have not experienced European nights before, wanting to see the variety that the Europa League may offer, but for me this is a major distraction that could come back and haunt us. History tells us that those clubs that have experienced what we are about to undertake, in the whole have struggled domestically. This season, more than most with the move to the Olympic Stadium just a year away, is vital to sustaining our presence in the Premier League. For me nothing other than total concentration on improving our league position this season would have been paramount. One fact that can’t be ignored is that if we continued our 2015 form into next season we would be relegated and this season we are exposing ourselves to a much harder workload. We can’t even take pride that we deserved this opportunity on the back of a great league position. We won it via the fair play award despite a plummeting drop in form.

Whilst our owners are doing all that they can to improve and strengthen our squad, we have to accept that we are poorly equipped for such an endeavour this season if our goal is to achieve great success in Europe and at home. The early rounds will no doubt give an opportunity for Slaven Bilic to get a good look at many of the fringe players. I would expect that the likes of Zarate, Lee, Poyet, Hendrie and Henry to be given chances that otherwise they may not have got? That would certainly be one of the merits of this adventure in the short term. It is staggering to see the response to tickets for this Thursday’s game and by the looks of things we may see over 28,000 attend? That is really amazing. Perhaps the Bilic factor is already at work, is it just the fact we do want some Euro airtime, or is it a case of football withdrawal symptoms?

Not withstanding any of my views on this topic I would love to be at Upton Park this Thursday just for one thing. How long will it take for the chant of “Slaven Bilic’s claret and blue army” to be echoing around the Boleyn? Not long I would imagine! The start of this season will almost certainly herald in a new era of optimism and it will great if the new manager inspires the last season at the Boleyn to be more than memorable. I hope I am wrong and end up with egg on my face with my current views on the Europa League, I really do. But for me this whole experience could implode on our domestic season. What are your views?

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