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Bilic has been dealt a huge blow – but it could open the door for others

“It’s a significant injury and he’s out for the season,” said West Ham manager Slaven Bilic of his top scorer this season Michail Antonio when speaking to the press on Thursday.

The Hammers have had a tough season marred by poor performances, crowd trouble and the saga surrounding Dimitri Payet. All of those persisting issues have covered another, however. All season long the club have struggled with constant injuries to their top players, which has been a big hindrance when it comes to getting a run of form going.

Antonio was sidelined with a hamstring injury just days after he had been called up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad for games against Germany and Lithuania but returned in the 1-0 win over Swansea last weekend. The former Reading and Nottingham Forest man, who was given his first Three Lions call up in August but is yet to make an appearance at national level, was named in the starting eleven against Paul Clement’s side but was forced off just before the break with his hamstring problem rearing it’s head again.

The versatile forward, who has played everywhere from right-back to up top this season was hailed by Bilic as one of his best players after a season which has seen him firmly stamp his authority on the Premier League.

One relief for West Ham fans is that, whilst it’s a disappointment there is little left to play for, such a blow cannot hamper their ambitions between now and the end of the season.

What it can do, in fact, is open the door for those who are still ready and waiting to step up and impress the fans at the London Stadium to do so with little pressure on their shoulders.

The likes of Sofiane Feghouli, who has been almost ever present in his first season but is yet to really settle, or Jonathan Calleri who is battling to secure a permanent deal now have the chance to seize their moment, starting with the trip to Sunderland this weekend.

The pair can take heart from the emergence of the likes of Andre Ayew and, to an extent, Edimilson Fernandes this season. After missing most of his first season with the Hammers, Ayew was handed his chance in the new year with Andy Carroll on the injury list and took it with both hands. Furthermore, the form of Fernandes when called upon at times this season has put him in very good standing with both the manager and fans.

Of course all Hammers fans would like to see Antonio out there again this season, but his absence could well hand them another hero.