Slaven Bilic earned sardonic comparisons to Jose Mourinho after the West Ham boss played no part in masterminding his side’s 3-0 Europa League first qualifying round win over Andorra’s FC Lusitans.
The similarities were drawn by defeated coach of the opposition, Xavi Roura, who was irked by his Croatian counterpart’s decision to hand control of the team to Terry Westley, the club’s academy director, as he watched from the executive seats.
“Slaven Bilic showed a lack of respect by not being on the bench,” he said, before going on to label his spectating rival ‘the Special One’.
By way of retort, Bilic has pinpointed the fact he has been in Ireland with the majority of his first-team squad while Westley commanded the remainder of troops at home in preparation for their obscenely early start to the season.
He also revealed that, up until the first round of preliminary fixtures is out of the way, the Hammers squad will remain fractured.
This being the case, the 1/2 about Bilic failing to take his seat on the bench for the return leg in Andorra rates as an exceptional price, as opposed to the 7/5 saying he’ll appease Roura and direct his charges from the dugout.
The game in question takes place next week and, given the squad won’t have been reintegrated by then, there is surely no way the Croat tactician will renege on his initial stance and snatch the reigns from Westley, especially having not worked with any of the players so far.
A three-goal lead (and no away-goal to be wary of) against hopelessly inferior opposition (they failed to win eight of their 20 Andorran league games last time around) presents Bilic with even greater mitigation to take the game less seriously.
Furthermore, he’s not going to undermine his own authority by allowing pressure applied by one of the more obscure names in football’s vast universe of unknown quantities to dictate how he observes games.
The prospects of Bilic not watching the second-leg from the stands, it would seem, hinge upon whether or not the stadium hosting the fixture has stands to speak of, making the mooted 1/2 punt the easiest of easy money.