Being told your star player wants to leave is probably one of the hardest things for any manager to take; especially if you are a manager theoretically ‘under pressure’ – and the player in question just happens to be a fans’ favourite.
It’s even harder when you’ve virtually built your team around him; but in the past week, Dimitri Payet has made it clear that as far as he’s concerned, he has no intention of playing for West Ham United ever again.
Hurt and angry, it’s obvious that Slaven Bilić has really taken the whole situation to heart.
It’s only a week ago that he was telling the support not to read too much into the fact that Payet was on the bench as opposed to starting. Now, the thought of the French international turning out in claret and blue again seems nigh-on impossible.
The official line from the club is that Dimitri Payet will not be going anywhere; but his mind is now so set on leaving West Ham that it looks as though the situation is irretrievable.
Disputes between players and clubs can only ever go so far. There is a line (on both sides) that once crossed makes it impossible to take back what has been said and the point of no return is reached. Once you get to that stage the possibility for negotiation ends right there.
It’s going to be difficult for either party to back down.
Depending on which side of the fence you sit, current events will either increase support for Slaven Bilić or lead to further calls for the club’ owners to replace him. It’s only been a matter of weeks since Hammers fans were calling for change; but that might well have been “rage against the machine” as opposed to against the Croatian himself.
If anything, the events of the past few days have shown how much Slaven Bilić cares; and how he’s not afraid to speak his mind or stand up for what he believes even if it means further dividing public opinion.
We shouldn’t be surprised by his reaction last week at the press conference. After all, this is the same coach who got so emotional after that final game at Upton Park, but now it’s the other side of his character that we’re seeing. It’s always been there; we just don’t usually get to see that part of him in public.
It takes a certain kind of personality to manage a football club and different people show this in different ways. Some are flamboyant and others dour; but the one thing in common is that they all have that inner steel which is so essential in order to make cold, calculated decisions.
Slaven Bilić is no different. As a manager, he’s there to make decisions that aren’t always going to be popular. He’s made changes in the past which haven’t gone down too well with the support, but recent events have shown that he’s undeniably committed to West Ham United. He expects people to understand that sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made for the good of the team.
The punch-line is that he will expect the players to see it that way as well; but players’ and managers’ opinions are rarely the same. Clearly Dimitri Payet’s viewpoint differs from that of the club and it appears that the gap between them has now become too wide to be bridged.
From a manager’s aspect, Slaven Bilić will no doubt be more than capable of dealing with the present situation once the initial emotion has passed. No manager likes a public stand-off with any player and he’ll be wanting to bring it to a close. ASAP.