The Sean Whetstone Column

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I have just returned home from watching the West Ham Under 23’s take on Chelsea at Aldershot’s stadium. Although it was a goalless draw the young team played with more passion, determination and grit than any of the first team showed on Friday night. I sat just behind Terry Westley and greeted him and wished him good luck before kick off. It was good to see him and his methods up close. He is another very passionate manager who frequently banged the clear plastic glass of the dugout when the game wasn’t going his way. It was also great to see Declan Rice up close and personal, he truly is a wonderful prospect who clearly models himself on the late great Bobby Moore.

This afternoon was a pleasant distraction from the embarrassment that happened on Friday night. West Ham fans hopes were quickly extinguished after Brighton’s first goal on 10 minutes. As the second killer goal went in just before halftime West Ham fans turned on West Ham fans inside the stadium. I personally witnessed a couple of incidents in my block 113 in the West stand of arguing, pushing and shoving and at halftime police rushed into the back of block 114 for another incident where one West Ham fan was arrested and hauled off. It seemed a return to old days of last season.

As the third goal went in on 75 minutes there was further trouble at Club London next to the director’s box as some kind of altercation broke out in the corporate hospitality area. By then embarrassed by a 3-0 defeat at home by Brighton the London Stadium largely emptied and West Ham fans made their long way home in disbelief what they had just witnessed on the pitch. It is on nights like last night that the London Stadium doesn’t feel like our new home.

A poll of over 3,100 supporters on Claret and Hugh on Saturday says the majority now want Slaven Bilic gone, over 77% want him gone immediately, over 10% want to give him until the Palace game, 4% say give him until January while 5% say the end of the season and a mere 3% want him to get a new contract.

There are rumours that he offered to resign after the Newcastle loss and again after Brighton. While it might have some element of truth I am told he has never offered to resign to the board at any time and the offer was made directly to the players instead which is meaningless.

I understand the board are currently unwilling to sack Slaven Bilic without a replacement with proven Premier League experience and they say there is simply no-one of the right calibre available at this time. They don’t want to be in the same situation as Leicester City. They also believe there is no natural successor to become caretaker manager at West Ham and while they love Terry Westley to bits they don’t think he has the right skill set to take over the Hammers as caretaker boss with demands of the Premier League.

Despite widespread reports, West Ham have NOT held any emergency board meetings over the weekend to decide whether Slaven Bilic should be sacked!

Speculation has been swirling around since Friday night’s shock result that Bilic could be out of work by the weekend as a result of such a meeting. David Gold is currently away on a winter break in the Caribbean and no board meeting would be held without him.

However, West Ham are drawing up a list of candidates to take over from Slaven Bilic should the decision be made in the future and the club knows it has a serious problem and is quickly speaking to agents and intermediaries. One of the possibilities being considered is an approach to veteran coach Guus Hiddink on a short-term contract whilst the club look for their ideal long-term candidate but there is concern over his age.

Another surprise option being considered by the club is former manager Sam Allardyce, he is said to be interested in the USA International manager job and it remains to be seen if he would tell the board where to stick it he got a call to get them out of trouble short term. Another Claret and Hugh poll of over 2,000 supporters shows that nearly 54% of supporters would accept Big Sam back as a short-term fix while 46% would stick with Slaven Bilic for the remainder of the season even if he meant relegation given the choice.

Meanwhile, bookmakers have predictably made Slaven Bilic a massive the odds-on favourite as the next Premier League manager to be sacked this season. Slav’s chance of the sack has been slashed to 1/3 making odds-on on favourite with Sky Bet to go with his closest rival Ronald Koeman at Everton on 11/4. Paddypower have Bilic 4/9 for the push while it’s 2/5 with Bet Victor.

Sky Bet have Manuel Pellegrini as the 100/30 favourite to replace the Croatian with Carlo Ancelotti second favourite at 11/2, Rafa Benitez is third at 6/1 with Sean Dyche, Roberto Mancini and Slavisa Jokanovic all at 8/1.

Manuel Pellegrini is the manager of Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune since August 2016. He is thought to be on a lucrative contract in China worth £30m over three years. He is the bookies Odds on favourite to join Leicester City. Difficult to match his current package.

Carlo Ancelotti says he will take at least a 10-month break after the Bayern Munich axe. Was paid £12.6m per year on a three-year contract at Bayern. Even if we could afford him after his sabbatical he is unlikely to consider West Ham as a realistic option as he won’t be short on offers.

Rafa Benitez says he is committed to Newcastle until the end of the season. He signed a new three-year contract in May this year worth £4.2m per year so West Ham could end up paying a compensation of around £10m should they tempt Rafa to leave the North East. With Newcastle up for sale, he is said to be keen to wait and find out what a new owner could bring to the Magpies in terms of backing in the transfer market.

Sean Dyche signed a contract extension at Burnley in 2016 and is one of lowest paid managers in the Premier League on £420,000 per year. He joined the Clarets in 2012 and in his five-year tenure has led them twice to Premier League promotion. Whether Dyche would leave Burnley and whether he would be an improvement on Slaven Bilic are all unanswered questions.

Roberto Mancini took over as Zenit St Petersburg manager this summer on a three-year contract thought to be worth €4.5m a year. He has the option of a two-year extension. Whether Mancini has a clause to leave if a Premier League club came in for him is unknown but there is likely to be a large compensation to persuade Zenit to part with him.

Slavisa Jokanovic took over at Championship side Fulham in 2015 and signed a two-year contract extension to stay in West London earlier this year. He has no Premier League experience despite previously getting Watford promoted to the Premier League. His lack of experience makes him somewhat of a gamble and would cost £5m in compensation to Fulham which makes him an unlikely candidate.

Personally, I think Bilic has already lost the dressing room and things will only get worse as the season goes on. Angelo Ogbonna says his baby daughter liked a ‘Bilic Out’ message on social media and it wasn’t him (honest guv) but rumours suggest the dressing room is already divided.

The board need to act and act fast, enough is enough, this is the time they need to stand up and be counted. Will the next West Ham manager please come forward.

Thanks for all you have done as a player and manager Slav and good luck for the future!

Sean COYI

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