Bilic savoured first Premier League season as boss


Slaven Bilic says he enjoyed his first season as a Premier League manager, despite a 2-1 defeat at Stoke City in their final game meaning West Ham missed the chance to secure a place in the Europa League.

West Ham now need Manchester United to beat Crystal Palace in next weekend's FA Cup final if they are to enjoy European football in their new home, the Olympic Stadium, next term. 

Bilic's side took the lead at the Britannia Stadium through Michail Antonio, but Giannelli Imbula and Mame Biram Diouf completed a fine comeback for Mark Hughes' side.

Diafra Sakho had multiple chances to extend West Ham's lead and Glenn Whelan made a pair of goalline clearances with the score at 1-1, leaving Bilic with mixed feelings.

Asked at his post-match press conference if he enjoyed his first season as a Premier League manager, Bilic said: "Big time, yeah.

"It's great to be a part of it, especially that we have been playing really good. I think that we were, according to neutral fans - apart from Leicester, they are a one-off - we are among two or three teams that have been praised the whole season.

"It was a good season and I enjoyed it. We all enjoyed it."

But Bilic was left frustrated after his side failed to take advantage of the chances they created, allowing Stoke to end West Ham's five-game unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League.

He said: "I'm gutted really. One part of me is really disappointed, angry or whatever, but the other half we can be happy with the way we played, because we were different class.

"After we scored the goal to the end of the first half, we should have been more than 1-0 up. At the start of the second half we had a massive chance, Sakho, Shay Given made a great save but we expect to score that goal.

"Then they equalised and after that we had three or four chances from the corners and you are really expecting that the ball is in, but it just didn't want to go in. And then, like so many times in football, you concede a goal and so it was just one of those games that makes you really frustrated."

Bilic explained the absence of playmaker Dimitri Payet, who missed the trip to the Britannia Stadium with a foot injury.

"It's not serious, but it was serious for this game," said Bilic. "It happened in the beginning of the game against Manchester United [on Tuesday].

"He tried to put the boot on [on Saturday] and that was really painful - it is a dodgy spot on his foot. He tried but it was very, very painful and it was impossible for him to play."