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West Ham United continue to grow in stature

Tuesday 19th July 2016
West Ham United have always been a big club; one with a prestigious heritage, and a passionate fan base. Some of the finest players in the country have plied their trade at Upton Park over the years. However; the club has failed to fulfil their potential in the Premier League, but that could be about to change.

There are many reasons for West Ham supporters to feel optimistic about their team. The club has one of the most talented young managers in the Premier League, their side's style of play has improved over the past 12 months, performances on the pitch resulted in West Ham finishing last season in their highest ever position in the Premier League, and their squad is one of the strongest they have possessed in recent times. Add to that: Dimitri Payet, one of the best players in Europe. Also, the club will move into the Olympic Stadium at the beginning of this season, so taking all of this into consideration; the future looks bright for the Hammers.

Slaven Bilic took charge of West Ham in June of last year; the West Ham board believed he was the right man to lead the team into a new era and help the club to challenge in the top-half of the Premier League. The Croatian has a good reputation as a manager, he previously enjoyed a successful six years in charge of his country, and he guided them to the European Championships in 2008. Two victories over England during qualification for that tournament enhanced Bilic's reputation in Europe.

Bilic has previous connections to West Ham, as he played there as a player during the 1996-97 season, making 49 appearances for the club. So, his appointment as West Ham manager at the beginning of last season was not a real surprise. Bilic was given the task of improving on West Ham's league position: 13th in 2013-14 and 12th the following season. In Bilic's first season in charge; West Ham finished in 7th place, and Bilic had gone some way to proving that he was the right man for the job.
One of the main reasons Bilic was appointed as manager of West Ham was to improve the team's style of play. After four seasons with Sam Allardyce in charge, the board believed that the club needed to move in a new direction, both on and off the pitch. Allardyce's pragmatic style of football was quickly replaced by Bilic's attacking philosophy, and it's had an instant impact judging on last season's performances. West Ham are now a team feared in the Premier League, and that is largely down to the brilliant work done by Bilic over the past 13 months.

West ham produced some incredible performances last season in the Premier League; it all started in their opening day victory away to Arsenal, the side set their stall out early on, and they followed it up with more impressive victories away from home. They demolished Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, and saw off Manchester City at the Etihad. Victory at home to Chelsea meant West Ham had defeated four of the biggest clubs in the Premier League during the opening three months of the season.

West Ham finished the campaign with 62 points; a record points total for the club in the Premier League. They also scored 65 goals, the highest they had managed to achieve in a season, and it proved that under the leadership of Bilic, the side had added an attacking intent which was previously unseen. West Ham qualified for this season's Europa League; it will be a new journey for the club, and a chance for them to test their skills against European opposition.

The club will have their sights set on improving on their 7th place finish when the Premier League kicks off this season. If they can maintain the level of performance they showed last season - whilst also improving in some areas, they have a good chance of finishing higher up in the table this campaign. Competing in the Europa League this season could prove a distraction; however, Bilic won't let his side's standards drop.
The signing of Dimitri Payet from Marseille was the best piece of business out of all the Premier League clubs during last summer's transfer window. The talented Frenchman was exceptional last season, and he was shortlisted for the PFA player of the year award. Payet scored 12 goals in all competitions, and assisted 12 times in the Premier League. Payet's reputation since joining West Ham has gone from being regarded as a moderately talented footballer, to being recognised as one of the top midfielders in Europe

West Ham also possess other top players in their squad. In defence, the partnership between Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna was impressive last season, and both are talented centre-backs. Aaron Cresswell had a great year for West Ham, he is regarded in England as being a top left-back. Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate help form a well-balanced combination in midfield; Noble was exceptional last season, and he can count himself unlucky not to have received a call-up for England. Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio also play key roles for the club. Andy Carroll was the top scoring striker, and on his day he can trouble any defence.

West Ham's quest to improve on last season has already begun, as Slaven Bilic has added five new faces to his squad for the coming season. Sofiane Feghouli is the standout name to join the club so far, he arrives on a free transfer from Valencia, and the talented Algerian will add quality in midfield. The search for a striker is now the main priority, and West Ham have been linked with numerous top quality front-men. Carlos Bacca and Mauro Icardi are the latest players linked with a big money move to east London. As West Ham now possess the financial firepower to rival the biggest clubs in the Premier League.
Upton Park has served as a great stadium over the years for West Ham, and it's one of the most iconic grounds in England, but the time had come for a change. This season, the club will move to their new ground in Stratford. The Olympic Stadium has a capacity of 60,000 - a 25,000 increase on Upton Park. It was imperative for West Ham to move stadiums in order to compete financially with England's biggest clubs. The Olympic Stadium will signal the beginning of a new era at West Ham, an era that will fondly remember the past, but ultimately focus on the future. West Ham now have everything in place to challenge at the top of the Premier League over the coming seasons, and only time will tell how close the club can come to achieving their ambitions.
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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