A week can be a long time in football. Going into West Ham’s game with Southampton last Saturday and the future of manager Slaven Bilic was far from certain, after a midweek hammering against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Not only had the Hammers taken a battering but former Sky Blues boss Roberto Mancini was in the stands watching on, amid rumours the club’s hierarchy were ready to oust BIlic and appoint the Premier League winning boss.
The Croatian has endured a tough season with the east London side so far, having started poorly with a Europa League exit, before the group stages, the poor form continued and there was trouble both on the pitch and in the stands as the club tried to settle in it’s new home.
However, with an upturn in form, and a less toxic atmosphere in the stands the Hammers began to enjoy their football once again.
Come January and that was once again flipped, home defeats to both Manchester clubs as well as the saga surrounding Dimitri Payet going on strike, gave the club an unstable feeling once again.
Bilic stood fast against his wantaway playmaker, happily told the press about the situation and made it clear that, unless the France international bucked his ideas up, he would not be playing again.
Having decided that it was best for his squad should Payet leave, the former Hammers defender swayed the board to his way of thinking and the 29-year-old was packed and back off to Marseille for a fee of £25m, more than twice the club paid to bring him to the Premier League.
In shipping out his best player in such a cold fashion, the manager made a big call and, after the loss to Guardiola’s side some may have been concerned.
However, along came the Southampton clash and a chance for the players to put right what had gone so embarrassingly wrong at the London Stadium that week.
The visitors put in a top notch showing at St. Mary’s, with goals from Andy Carroll and Pedro Obiang giving them a 2-1 lead at the break, after Manolo Gabbiadini put the Saints ahead, before Mark Noble’s deflected free-kick made it 3-1, game, set and match.
Bilic was full of praise for his players in the post-match press conference and interviews, hailing them for having done everything he could have asked and more on the day.
The under-fire manager took quite the gamble when he cleared out Payet in the January window, and the players appear to have reacted and rallied around their boss, putting in quite the showing on the south coast.
Repeat that performance against Tony Pulis’ West Brom side back in London this weekend and the players will be sending out a stark message to the board that they are firmly behind their manager and that, regardless of the league finish this season, there is no need for change in that department.