Poor Slaven Bilic hasn’t even had time to change the curtains in Sam Allardyce’s old Boleyn Ground office before being warned of West Ham’s high expectations, by the Sun at least.
The bafflingly-popular red top says the Irons’ new chief will get the heave-ho without a bean of compensation if he leads his new side to relegation next season, the last at their historic home before moving to Stratford’s Olympic Stadium.
With this in mind, we’ve worked out three alternate realities ahead of Bilic’s first and possibly final term in charge of West Ham.
Top four @ 50/1
New signings Stephen Hendrie, Pedro Obiang, Dimitri Payet and Darren Randolph are joined by Bilic’s young compatriot Alen Halilovic, on loan from Barcelona, plus last season’s Serie A joint-top scorer Luca Toni, who’s coaxed to England for a ‘fresh challenge’ at the age of 38.
With few injury concerns at the beginning of the campaign and the Irons’ first European tilt for nine years successfully thrown in the first round, demands on the new faces are low, apart from Toni, who bags five late winners in his first eight Premier League appearances, despite only being on the pitch for 20 minutes in total.
Freed from the suffocating influence of Kevin Nolan (binned off back to Bolton at the earliest available opportunity by Bilic), Andy Carroll finds enough form to force his way back into the England squad, lasting one match before everyone remembers what he’s all about.
After a mid-season dip, the Irons rally with wins at home to Spurs and away to Everton at the start of spring.
Bilic seals fourth place with a game to spare by beating Swansea in West Ham’s last match at the Boleyn Ground, which henceforth will be known as David Gold’s helicopter hangar.
Top ten @ 17/10
New signings Stephen Hendrie, Pedro Obiang, Dimitri Payet and Darren Randolph are joined by Bilic favourites Vedran Corluka and Niko Kranjcar, neither of whom were good enough for Tottenham a few seasons ago.
The new boss’ insane decision to take the preliminary stages of the Europa League super-seriously sees West Ham beat Andorran no-hopers FC Lusitanos 56-0 and Armenian small-fry Ulisses 42-1, before a lack of fitness takes its toll in the third qualifying round against Brondby, who edge a dour tie 1-0 on aggregate.
Disappointment drifts around the Boleyn Ground following their continental exit, with early losses on the road at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City leaving the new boss under fire just four months into his reign, but some astute winter window business pulls the sometime-rock star out of the fire.
Former West Ham hitman and Bilic boy at Besiktas Demba Ba realises, as many have before him, that he’s too young for semi-retirement in China, and sets his course for a third stint in London.
Ba bags 15 goals in West Ham’s last 18 Premier League matches, seeing them climb above Stoke and Swansea into ninth by the campaign’s close.
Relegated @ 6/1
New signings Stephen Hendrie, Pedro Obiang, Dimitri Payet and Darren Randolph are it for the summer after a petition to charge West Ham much, much more for renting the Olympic Stadium is debated in the House of Commons.
A bunch of people who know nothing at all about football vote ‘Aye’.
Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate go on international duty and are never seen or heard from again, with the Senegal FA gaining more than a modicum of revenge for the former being withheld by West Ham last season.
The new quartet are all rushed into the team, with Carroll and Nolan also heavily relied upon. It doesn’t go at all well.
Swansea complete Bilic’s misery with a 5-0 win in the last ever fixture at the Boleyn Ground, but an unlikely Europa League run sees West Ham make the final.
Managerless, they take another five-goal hammering, this time from Sevilla (of course) and head to the Championship, and their new 54,000 stadium, with a helluva story.
Big Sam takes over.