Slaven Bilic's greatest achievement at West Ham isn't on the pitch it's in the stands

The return of Sam Allardyce with Sunderland only served to highlight the incredible job Slaven Bilic is doing at West Ham United.

Make no bones about it some West Ham fans just never took to Sam Allardyce.

The big, gruff northerner (he is actually from Dudley) was not a 'West Ham man' they argued, and they were right in fairness.

But Hammers fans are a knowledgable bunch and those worth their salt will admit Allardyce did a job.

After relegation to the Championship under the hapless Avram Grant he was the bitter medicine the club needed.

And he made them all better too.

But the relationship reached a natural conclusion last season and despite large sections of the media warning West Ham to 'be careful what you wish for' the Hammers waved goodbye to the former Bolton Wanderers boss after four years in charge.

The club and its fans were panned for daring to dream of more than mere survival in the top flight by playing the percentages.

Belligerence killed fan rapport

The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel, a Hammers fan himself, summed up the feeling towards Allardyce quite eloquently in one sentence of his match analysis from West Ham's 1-0 win over Sunderland at the weekend when he said: "As everyone knows, West Ham had never won a football match until Sam Allardyce became manager, so it must have been very disappointing that they chose to win another one when he returned with his Sunderland team on Saturday."

And that about sums it up, Big Sam's unflinching self-belief and belligerence was slowly killing his relationship with West Ham fans and when results nosedived a parting of the ways was inevitable.

Allardyce spent much of his time at West Ham criticising the club, belittling its history and traditions and even labelled the fans 'deluded and brainwashed' for their belief in the fabled 'West Ham way'.

Well one person who does "get" the West Ham way is his replacement Bilic.

Super Slav gets the 'West Ham way'

'Super Slav' as he is already being referred to on the terraces has taken the Hammers on to a new level this season.

Perhaps you could argue he has better players, but he has had a hand in signing those players.

Indeed if anything three of those signings prove just how much Bilic gets West Ham and their supporters.

Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini are West Ham all over.

Either player would grace any West Ham era and the skillful duo have been so important in the club's unlikely push for the Champions League places this season.

Rough diamond Michail Antonio is another.

The powerful and pacy grafter has all the workmanlike qualities that would not have been out of place on the docks where the club's history is rooted.

Bilic's biggest achievement is in the stands

As a former Hammers player of debatable cult hero status, Bilic enjoyed an instant affinity with supporters which Allardyce never had.

But that will only get you so far with West Ham fans. Just ask Alan Curbishley.

Yes the Croatian could yet lead the club to one of their highest ever Premier League finishes, yes he could yet lead them to the most poignant of FA Cup wins in what is their last season at their beloved Boleyn Ground home of 112 years.

He has done it by playing without fear, playing freeflowing attacking football even AWAY from home.

But none of those things comes close to his achievements off the pitch. Because it is in the stands where Bilic's biggest achievement can be charted.

He has West Ham united again on and off the pitch and everyone pulling in the same direction.

He has West Ham fans enjoying going to football matches again, enjoying hearing people say what good football their team plays rather than endure taunts over long ball.

Hammers fans are just enjoying being able to dream again.

Alan Curbishley once said if everyone at West Ham from board to fans could pull in the same direction the club could be a 'juggernaut'.

Bilic is the man who is going to prove those were wise words indeed and simultaneously vindicate the club's owners and fans for daring to do a bit of blue sky thinking.

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