Bilic: I preferred playing at Upton Park

  • by Staff Writer
  • Thursday, 23rd January 2020

West Bromwich Albion coach Slaven Bilic says that this weekend's return to Stratford will be a "special" day for him.

The Croatian manager was in charge at West Ham between 2015 and 2017, during which he became the only Hammers manager during the last decade to achieve a finish above tenth place - and that whilst the club were still at The Boleyn Ground.

And speaking ahead of Saturday's FA Cup fourth round tie, in which he brings his high-flying West Bromwich Albion team to east London, Bilic admitted that the game will have a special resonance - even though he admits to preferring the club's former ground.


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"I am not going to lie and say it would be the same as if we were, say, playing Arsenal," he told The Telegraph's Jason Burt.

"It's West Ham. I was there as a player, I was there as a manager. I didn't play or manage 10 English clubs. I have played for two (West Ham and Everton) and managed two.

"I didn't leave in a bad way because I think I did a good job there. If you look at how it ended then, okay, but it's like that for most managers. Very few are there until the end of their contract."

And with regards to the stadium, he admitted that the move from Upton Park played a major part in his eventual departure from West Ham which came following a dismal run of form in the opening half of the club's second season at the LOS.


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"It's not an excuse, but if you ask me if it was better to play at Upton Park or not then there's no discussion," he said.

"It was more home, it was more hostile. Not one opposition player enjoyed it when they had to go to Upton Park! That's a fact. The Olympic Stadium is very different for an away team. You enjoy it more.

"What also changes are the fans. It's like pubs; now you have modern bars. When you take people out of the pub and go to them, they don't feel comfortable. They prefer pubs where it is packed and you are shoulder to shoulder.

"Like what Roy Keane said about the 'prawn sandwich brigade' - it leads to that. You don't want to lose that hostile home advantage and there are very few of those traditional clubs left in the Premier League because the league forces you to become more a corporation than a football club."

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