LONDON — Former West Ham defender Slaven Bilic returned as manager Tuesday after being convinced that the impending move into London’s Olympic Stadium will make the Premier League club more ambitious.
The former Croatia coach signed a three-year contract to replace Sam Allardyce, who left West Ham last month when the season ended amid an increasingly fraught relationship with fans.
Beyond getting the team playing the brand of spirited attacking soccer sought by the owners, a key priority for Bilic will be ensuring West Ham is still a Premier League team for the 2016-17 season. That is when West Ham moves home across east London into the stadium used for the 2012 London Olympics, which is being turned into a 54,000-seat venue.
In its final season at Upton Park, West Ham will be playing in the UEFA Europa League for the first time.
“My first priority when choosing a club is to look at its ambitions,” the 46-year-old Bilic said on the club website. “(The owners) made clear that it is not only the fantastic new stadium we are moving into, but they showed their determination and ambition to make what is a big club even bigger.
“I saw their determination and passion that they want to do that. That was the No. 1 reason. I could feel that they really wanted me, so it was an easy choice.”
Bilic played for West Ham in 1996-97, and went on to coach Croatia at the 2008 and 2012 European Championships. More recently, he has coached Lokomotiv Moscow and Besiktas.
“I remember West Ham as a special club,” Bilic said. “It is a great place to play and I felt like I was at home. It is a big privilege and a big responsibility to now be manager.”
Allardyce left after a dismal second half of the season saw West Ham finish in 12th place.
Thumbnail Photo via File/Associated Press