This isn’t the first time a player has hinted that Slaven Bilic’s training sessions are a bit... ‘different’. It was only a few days ago when Jose Fonte was forced to compare his old boss Mauricio Pochettino’s training style with that of Slaven Bilic. Fonte said he learns a little bit from each manager along the way but with Pochettino:
"With Pochettino, for example, we worked a lot on improving the physical aspect on the training ground, on interceptions, on playing out from the back, making the right angles, sliding across to be in the right positions all the time, and the distances between the players in the back four – small details that you pick up along the way.”
While Fonte points to the tactical and physical aspects of Pochettino’s strengths, he chose a different description for Bilic:
“You can see on the touchline that Slaven is very different than most managers He is honest, direct and a football person. He was a centre-back himself, he has character and an aura and I’m just pleased to be working with him and learning from him."
That description, while telling, shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been following West Ham United throughout this campaign. The Hammers, while they’ve struggled at times, echo the passion exuded by the fans and club history. Slaven fits the bill in that regard with few his equal. He’s a leader and a motivator, and nobody can take that away. However, tactically speaking, he’s been found wanting on more than one occasion. While that might be due, in part, to the inability of the board to provide more depth for the Croatian manager, he certainly hasn’t shown the creative flare to subvert those limitations.
So here we are, a few days later, and another player is noticing the differences in training ground sessions. Reece Oxford has expressed his surprise in the level of intensity around the training grounds at Reading.
It is difficult to believe that Reece only made his debut for the Royals a few days ago. While he’s been left out of the team squad numerous times, he did make three solid bench appearances. The 18 year old junior starlet moved to Reading on loan in January and it’s been a puzzling experience for all parties involved. West Ham fans and club thought he would be putting in more time on the pitch, while Reading seems content to convert Ox into a practice pylon.
Reece, ever the professional, hasn’t complained about his lack of playing time. Slaven Bilic did that for him:
"I am surprised, and I'm not happy with that. He went there to play.
"The only reason for him to leave us and go on loan was to get more games than he was getting here.''
Shooting back at Bilic’s distaste for how Ox is being handled, Reading manager Jaap Stam let reporters know that Reece was surprised with the intensity regiment at Madejski Stadium.
"Reece Oxford has been surprised at the level of intensity in training at Reading, compared to at West Ham.''
Bilic got the last word and defended his training by saying Reece was coming off of injuries earlier this year and they took it slow as to not risk further complications.
"... if you ask me, if I heard any feedback about the intensity of our training, it was never a question of do we train with less intensity? It was more sometimes that we train too much.''