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'I was confident I could close the gap between expectation and reality': Bilic bids farewell to fans

‘I understand the club’s desire to make a change.’

Image: John Walton

SLAVEN BILIC HAS said he understands why he was sacked by West Ham after enduring a woeful start to the season which sees the east London club currently languish in the relegation zone.

The 49-year-old Croatian, who played over 50 times for West Ham between 1996 and 1997, took the reins three summers ago, steering the Hammers to seventh in the Premier League and breaking several club records in the process.

In a statement released to supporters on the club website, Bilic recalled fondly his more fruitful beginnings as West Ham manager before lamenting their poor form during the first 11 league games of this season.

The former Croatia manager said that their 3-2 victory over Manchester United in what was the final ever game at the club’s old Bowleyn Ground “will live with me forever,” but expressed regret that his side couldn’t live up to lofty expectations this term.

“I would like to say how proud I am to have been given the opportunity to manage West Ham United Football Club,” said Bilic.

It has been far more than just a job for me. Having worn the claret and blue shirt as a player, I felt that connection when I returned as manager and I have always known how truly special this club is.

“I am sad that it hasn’t worked out in the way we wanted this season. But I leave with my head held high, along with some wonderful memories that I will always cherish.

“My first season in charge was fantastic. We broke so many records, losing only one game against the top six teams home or away, and finishing just four points away from the Champions League places.

“And for it to end the way it did, on that unforgettable final night at the Boleyn Ground, was sensational. To have been a part of that magical evening is something that will live with me forever.

I was confident that we would be able to progress this season and continue to close the gap between expectation levels and reality, but unfortunately it has not been the case. I believe in my qualities and wanted desperately to fight on to turn things around, but I understand the club’s desire to make a change.

Bilic went on to thank his players and staff, the club’s two chairmen and, finally, the supporters, concluding: I genuinely hope they get the success they deserve and I wish everyone at West Ham United all the very best in the future.

Former Everton and Manchester United boss David Moyes is expected to replace Bilic in the London Stadium hot seat.

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