Slaven Bilic is betraying his reputation by playing unfancied Nikica Jelavic at West Ham

Slaven Bilic

Slaven Bilic has betrayed his reputation by playing unfancied Nikica Jelavic amid West Ham United's injury crisis.

The Hammers are experiencing what seems to be an annual glut of injuries to key players after losing star man Dimitri Payet, key striker Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia for an extended spell, playmaker Manuel Lanzini, pacy winger Victor Moses and defensive rock Winston Reid too.

It means Bilic was left in the unenviable position of relying on injury-prone striker Andy Carroll up front.

So when the former Newcastle United and Liverpool striker inevitably got injured ahead of the Swansea City match he decided to give the unfancied Nikica Jelavic his first start up top.

While the striker could not be faulted for his effort and workrate, sceptical fans were far from impressed with what they saw as Jelavic offered little by way of pace, skill or goal threat throughout the 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium.

Betraying his reputation

Jelavic worked hard but wasted a couple of really good chances against the Swans.

That could be put down to rustiness, but many fans have questioned the decision to use Jelavic over some of the hot prospects in West Ham's famous Academy, particularly as they have a good points tally and are sat comfortably in eighth place in the Premier League.

After all the former Croatia boss has built his reputation on blooding top young talent and helping them realise their potential for both club and country.

He is still heralded for the job he did with his national team where he was credited with successfully overseeing the introduction of a series of young players from the under-21 squad to the senior side, the star of which was Luka Modric.

Young strikers ignored

The Hammers have the likes of 20-year-old striker Janaai Gordon and young star Elliot Lee coming through the ranks but they have been ignored and Lee even loaned out despite the injury crisis.

Perhaps what is even more confusing for West Ham fans is the fact Bilic has already shown he is not afraid to give youth a chance.

He made Reece Oxford the youngest player in West Ham's history when he started him in the 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates on the opening day of the season.

But Oxford has barely featured since and despite hitting a purple patch for the club's development side in recent weeks Gordon did not even make the Hammers' bench.

Oxford education

West Ham fans had grown fed up with former manager Sam Allardyce's reluctance to give any young players a chance during his four years at the club.

Many supporters felt that would all change under Bilic, who knows how much the club's fans appreciate seeing a young player graduate to the first team having been a player at Upton Park himself.

While that may yet still be the case as the season progresses, Bilic has made a mistake not using the injury crisis as an opportunity to blood some of West Ham's Academy talent.

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