West Ham must make the most of ‘dangerous’ situation – Slaven Bilic on move to Olympic Stadium

4 Aug

Slaven Bilic has urged his players to shape West Ham’s future at the Olympic Stadium but warned the move could prove “dangerous” to the club.

The Hammers begin life away from Upton Park, their home for 112 years, when they face NK Domzale of Slovenia on Thursday looking to overcome a 2-1 first-leg deficit to advance into the play-off round for a spot in the Europa League.

The move to the London Stadium, which is the new name for the Olympic Stadium, is seen as a way of moving West Ham into the higher echelons of the Premier League and to bring in more revenue.

But Bilic has urged caution and does not want it to be taken as a given that success will come hand in hand with the move.

“Yes this is an opportunity for West Ham to establish themselves but as well (to think like) this is dangerous,” he said.

“I am an optimistic person but somebody has mentioned it that we experienced some bad examples of stadium moves. Fifty-two thousand season tickets sold are not going to get you a throw-in in the game. They are not going to get you a corner. They are not going to get you a point.

“The pitch is the same and you have to prove it. The stadium brings so many advantages and everybody is buzzing, blah, blah, blah. But it also has some minuses compared to Upton Park. It is up to us to use this great situation that we are privileged to be in.”

Bilic highlighted Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 and Southampton’s relocation to St Mary’s in 2001 as examples of clubs finding it difficult to adapt to a new home.

Saints took just one point from their first five Premier League games after leaving The Dell, while Arsenal’s title hopes took a hit as they won just half of their opening 10 league fixtures at the Emirates Stadium.

“I’m aware of that, some teams don’t struggle but need time to adjust,” Bilic said when asked about the problems about relocating.

“I thought about it a few months ago during the process but I don’t think about it now, it is there.

“We have to be positive and I’m totally positive, the players are not afraid of it, they like it. They liked it from the start, we have moved just 10 minutes, it is still east London.

“It is going to be hard to replace the Boleyn Ground like it was hard to replace Highbury or at Southampton, it is a different kind of stadium.

“There is no reason to approach that issue in a negative way. On the contrary, it is a privilege to play in such a great stadium in front of a big crowd and we are looking forward to it.”

West Ham fielded a strong starting XI in defeat to Domzale in the first leg but fell short against opponents whose domestic season is already under way.

Bilic will have the same squad this week, with Dimitri Payet, Angelo Ogbonna and James Collins still rested following their involvement at Euro 2016.

“It’s the first game at our new stadium so it’s a big game for us,” Bilic said.

“We are going to have to play much better than the first leg. We don’t have a mountain to climb, but a job to do.”


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