Slaven Bilic: Rock star, lawyer and now West Ham manager

By Gary RoseBBC Sport
Slaven Bilic
Slaven Bilic played for West Ham between 1996 and 1997

He plays the guitar, speaks several languages and is a fully qualified lawyer, but is Slaven Bilic the right manager for West Ham?

When the search began for a replacement for Sam Allardyce, the Hammers' board set a list of criteria.

High on that list was playing the West Ham way, understanding the club and its fans, taking the Hammers to the next level, and a willingness to give youth players a chance.

So does former Hammers defender Bilic, who was appointed on Tuesday, tick the boxes? BBC Sport takes a look.

What is he like as a manager?

Steve McClaren
Slaven Bilic masterminded Croatia's victory over England in a Euro 2008 qualifier at Wembley in 2007

For many fans in England, their first encounter with Bilic the manager came in November 2007.

In charge of the Croatia national team, Bilic oversaw a 3-2 win against England at Wembley that ended the Three Lions's hopes of reaching Euro 2008 and, ultimately, Steve McClaren's time as manager.

It was as an international manager he arguably enjoyed his most success to date, leading Croatia to the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 and securing qualification for Euro 2012, where they exited at the group stages.

Success at club level has been limited. He was sacked after one season at Lokomotiv Moscow and failed to win a trophy in two years at Turkish side Besiktas, the club he left last month after finishing third in their domestic league.

However, he did guide Beskitas to victory against Liverpool in the Europa League in February.

"Bilic didn't give confidence that he is a good problem-solver in his time at Besiktas," Ahmet Yavuz, of FourFourTwo Turkey, told BBC Sport.

"In the first 18 months the team failed to hold on when they were leading 1-0 or 2-0 and he never won a derby game against Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.

"He struggled to find the right solutions to change a game and there was a routine in his substitutions. Liverpool was the exception."

Can he create a team to 'play the West Ham way'?

West Ham
Will it be 'the West Ham way' or 19th century football for the Hammers under Slaven Bilic?

Tactically, then, there is perhaps a question mark, but what about being able to 'play the West Ham way'?

That might well be his strength.

Once accused of overseeing a West Ham side that played "19th century" football by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, Allardyce ultimately paid the price for not delivering a brand of football Hammers fans craved.

Bilic, a West Ham defender for 18 months from 1996, will know what the club expects.

Despite making just 55 appearances for the club, he is a Hammers cult hero, loved by the fans for his no-nonsense defending and big personality.

"Slaven has already spoken about this being a cult club," Dean Ashton, who played for West Ham between 2006 and 2009, told BBC Radio 5 live.

"He understands they will want a certain style of play and be entertained, but that is easier said than done. There will be a lot of work to do."

Bilic may not have delivered trophies at Besiktas, but he was praised by fans for the brand of football they played.

"In one of his first interviews in Turkey, Bilic said 'my team is as energetic as Iron Maiden'," added Yavuz. "He really delivered in that regard.

"With a 4-2-3-1 formation, he built a team with two dynamic defensive midfielders, one creative playmaker and wingers able to cut inside. Last season especially, Demba Ba showed that he was the missing piece of that formation with his ability to encourage midfielders to attack.

"In two years Besiktas transformed to an energetic, collective and fast team, playing with short passes."

Iron Maiden
Slaven Bilic, a guitarist in a rock band, promised Besiktas fans the team would be as energetic as Iron Maiden

Is he capable of taking the club to the next level?

While being able to deliver entertaining football, Bilic's managerial trophy cabinet remains disconcertingly bare.

As a former player, Bilic will likely be given an extended bedding-in period but a battle to stay in the Premier League will not be the club's goal next season.

"They have to be comfortably in the top half, 10th and above, and start to press for Europa League places," added Ashton.

"They will definitely spend money in the summer, and it will be a big summer for Slaven."

Player recruitment will no doubt be key, and Hammers fans will perhaps take heart that the playing squad was seen to have improved at Besiktas under Bilic.

Midfielders Gokhan Tore, Tolgay Arslan and Jose Sosa and striker Ba all arrived during his time in charge and all impressed.

West Ham strengthened well last summer, bringing in exciting talent in the shape of Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Alex Song. Bilic will be expected to continue that process.

"One of the plus points for West Ham last season was certainly the players they brought in," said former Hammers midfielder Steve Lomas.

"It certainly enhanced the squad and they can't afford to rest on their laurels, they've got to bring in five or six players who certainly stake a claim for a first-team spot."

The new Mourinho?

Slaven Bilic
Frank Lampard has played alongside Slaven Bilic and for Jose Mourinho

Ex-England international Frank Lampard once compared Bilic,external-link his former West Ham team-mate, to Jose Mourinho. There are similarities.

As a player, Bilic went against the grain. He smoked, enjoyed a glass of wine and played guitar in a rock band, but despite that rebellious image he was also a great thinker, studying for a law degree in case a career in football did not work out and becoming fluent in several languages.

Those qualities helped him develop into a boss who, according to Lampard, excels at man-management, as well as being a master of mind games.

"Whenever I see Slaven speak, he talks about his close relationship with his players - as if they are family and that's very important for the modern-day manager to have that relationship. The players then give you that bit extra," said Lampard in 2009.

"He's very intelligent. He is always thinking one step ahead and thinking of any little edge he can get on the other team."

'He gets close to you and helps you along'

Slaven Bilic
Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand looked up to Slaven Bilic when all three were at West Ham in 1996

West Ham want their new manager to be able to help promising players from the club's famed academy to successfully make the transition to the first team.

This, arguably, is his biggest strength.

Lampard, 19 when he and Bilic were at West Ham, fondly remembers his "big personality" and how he took time to get to know the club's youngsters. "Not all players are like that," said Lampard. "To get close to you and help you along."

Lampard's former England team-mate Rio Ferdinand came through the youth ranks at Upton Park, making his senior debut at the age of 17 in the year Bilic arrived at the club.

"He was someone I looked up to as a defender," said Ferdinand at the launch of BT Sport Europe on Tuesday.

"He was a fantastic guy, a great professional. That's what he'll bring to West Ham and he'll put his stamp on the team.

"I think West Ham fans will see good things with him as manager."

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