The former Premier League midfielder discusses his beloved Hammers with HITC Sport.
As an East Ham native, Jimmy Bullard’s feelings towards the football club based slightly to the west of his roots are easily explained.
The former Premier League midfielder is a self-confessed Happy Hammer and will have whiled away many a happy hour blowing bubbles around the Boleyn Ground.
His beloved football club are readying themselves for a high-profile house move, with the Olympic Stadium set to be called ‘home’ from 2016/2017.
Giving Upton Park a fitting send off will be considered a top priority this season, with it important to ensure that 112 years of history are wrapped up with a bang, rather than a bump.
It has, however, been on the road that West Ham United have been flying the flag this term, with odds-defying victories in the backyards of Premier League heavyweights such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City helping the capital outfit to make a promising start to life under returning cult hero Slaven Bilic.
Getting things right in front of their own supporters remains a work in progress – with a last-gasp effort required to salvage a point against Norwich City last time out – but summer recruitment points towards a club better suited to living out of a suitcase, hitting opponents on the counter and competing free of the expectation to dictate and dominate proceedings.
Bullard, speaking as part of Ladbrokes Rugby’s ‘Who’s Got The Balls’ campaign, agrees, telling HITC Sport during a phone interview that the acquisition of Dimitri Payet, Victor Moses, Manuel Lanzini et al has made the Hammers one of the most dangerous outfits in the English top-flight.
He said: “100 per cent. They have got pure pace. They have got pace up top. I’d always say you are only as good as your strikers and forward players, and West Ham are a perfect example of that.
“They can catch any team – they proved it against Manchester City. They are going away to top teams this year and top teams, they won’t fear them, but they respect them.
“It’s the same with Leicester. I was watching (Jamie) Vardy at the weekend, he is lightening. He is really sharp, Vardy. He can cause a lot of teams problems on the counter. I know Arsenal ran away with the game, but he looked like he could cause teams serious problems. He could be a serious threat for England as well.”
It is, however, important to remember that this is something of a transitional period for West Ham.
After four years under the reign of Sam Allardyce, there is an expectation around the East End club that a more eye-catching brand of football – the fabled ‘West Ham way’ – will be returned with Bilic at the helm.
He is certainly looking to appease the paying punters, but a change in philosophy – especially one so marked – is not going to happen overnight and there needs to be an acceptance from all concerned that there may be bumps in the road as teething problems are ironed out and the best methods in which to draw consistency are established.
Bullard added: “It won’t happen overnight, but Bilic has got his own players in. They are his players.
“I think the way West Ham wanted to play – we all know the way Sam liked to play, very rigid, get your defenders and midfielders in, get goals from crosses and set-plays – Bilic is totally different. If you look at the players from Allardyce’s last game and Bilic’s first game, it’s a different team, there are about seven different players.
“They are bringing their own style to the game. Bilic won’t change the style of a player – Payet will play his own way.”
West Ham followers will accept that.
Comparisons between Payet and former fans’ favourites Paolo Di Canio and Carlos Tevez have already been drawn, with the club fabled for their use of enigmatic talents down the years.
That all adds to the sense of fun for those with claret and blue running through their veins, and you do get the feeling that while a final hurrah at their famous old ground may not be the smoothest of rides, it will certainly be an enjoyable one – with a few memorable away days thrown in for good measure.
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