Bilic: I respect FC Lusitans


Published: Friday 3rd July 2015 by The News Editor

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West Ham boss Slaven Bilic insists he has “big time” respect for FC Lusitans after he was criticised for sitting out the Europa League qualifying fixture on Thursday evening.

Having been appointed on June 9, Bilic watched from the stands with academy director Terry Westley overseeing a 3-0 first-leg victory as the Hammers got their season under way just 39 days after the end of the last campaign.

Bilic, 46, was presented to a sold-out Upton Park before the game before moving to the directors’ box having flown over from a training camp in Ireland with those senior players not involved in the Europa League fixture.

Lusitans coach Xavi Roura was not happy with Bilic’s decision not to take charge of West Ham – saying he was saddened that his counterpart was not on the bench – claiming the Croatian thought he was the ‘Special One’ and that Lusitans were “not important enough” for Bilic.

But former Besiktas boss Bilic, who is yet to address the media since replacing Sam Allardyce, told West Ham’s official website it was more about splitting his time between two groups of players rather than disrespecting both opponent and competition on Thursday.

“I was thinking about the best way to manage the game and the training camp we have in Ireland,” he said.

“I didn’t want to disrespect anyone and especially not a football team from Andorra as I respect them big time.

“I respect Terry and I respect West Ham so I wanted to show respect to Terry as he coached this team and he took them for pre-season in Ireland and knew them all well.

“I didn’t want to be disrespectful to him. Also the majority of the first team is in Ireland so that was behind our decision to do it like this.”

Roura hopes to see Bilic in Andorra for the second leg next Thursday but Westley said he would not expect the manager to make the trip – with Bilic still looking to spread his time.

“I will now go back to Ireland on Friday to meet back up with the first-team group,” he added.

“To be honest I don’t really like this kind of situation with one half of the team in Ireland and one half in England but it will be that way until after we play our second leg in Andorra next week.”

Diafra Sakho scored twice with James Tomkins adding the third against Lusitans on Thursday and, if the Hammers can safely navigate the return leg, they will still face two more qualifying rounds and a play-off to reach the Europa League group stages.

Published: Friday 3rd July 2015 by The News Editor

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