It was arguably the biggest day in Slaven Bilic’s accomplished managerial career. A loss tonight, on his 49th birthday of all days, would have possibly been the end of his West Ham tenure.
It was so important this fixture against Huddersfield tonight that he wrote, unexpectedly, a big column posted on West Ham’s website to the fans.
Tonight’s game is a big one. There is no getting away from it. And I am facing up to that in the way I have always done throughout my career when in a difficult spell. Not by hiding, not by losing faith, and not pretending everything is fine.
We have spent the last few days working as hard as possible to be ready for this game. I know it is an old cliché but it is true. It is about finding that zone that enables you to perform to the best of your ability, to progress and to improve your position.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of the Newcastle defeat was that we have had to wait for more than two weeks for the chance to put things right. It is understandable when you hear pundits say that managers are desperate to avoid a defeat in the game before an international break.
Normally, you are back together in training as a group a couple of days after the match and you work accordingly. If you have won everybody is happy and if you have lost then everybody is a bit down – but the key is that you are together, and you share the mood as a team. When there is an international break, some of the players obviously go away and, if you have lost, you have to live with that for two weeks.
Of course, it can be positive – some of them, like Joe Hart and Aaron Cresswell, came back in a great mood and with confidence because they gained six points with England and are a step closer to the World Cup.
And tonight, on his 49th birthday, Slaven Bilic, former West Ham player and manager, got the result he needed so badly.
It would have been cruel to lose this one, on his birthday and in need of a win at the London Stadium against a newly promoted side who were clearly second best on the evening. And thankfully for Slaven Bilic, he can have a slice of cake knowing his job is safe.
HAMpy Birthday to you, Slaven!