Forget winter, there are blue skies all around for West Ham Utd manager Slaven Bilic who has seen off a tough injury spell and still emerged in fifth place in the Premier League – ahead of Manchester Utd – and unbeaten in eight.
The 3-1 away win at Bournemouth on Tuesday night saw two of his returnees on the scoresheet – the purring Dimitri Payet who scored one and Enner Valencia who netted two.
If there was a signal that it was a return to business as usual – or at least a reclaiming of the start-of-season fireworks – it came with the sad withdrawal of £15million Plan B striker Andy Carroll. A changing of the guard.
The tall man had begun to find form and make an impact but he limped off after only 15 minutes with what appeared to be a muscle injury. His spell at West Ham has been dogged by injury which has seen him drop out of contention for an England place and the latest setback may not see him in action until next month.
Bilic said: “After the Liverpool win I said that he is back, he looked sharp, he looked strong and he was covering the whole pitch and terrorising the defence.
“So, it is a blow but he has been working really hard. Maybe or hopefully it is not that long. Maybe it is going to be a couple of weeks but we need him.
“He is disappointed because he knows he is back but if we have to choose between a knee and hamstring injury, it is better to have a hamstring injury.”
At half-time, the Carroll injury would have summed up the fate of the east London club. Eddie Howe’s side moved ahead through Harry Arter and the Irons had few answers.
But they stepped up a gear in the second half, inspired by man of the match Payet who got a goal and a yellow card and substituted in the 78th minute.
Bilic said: “West Ham fans always love those kinds of players with a bit of magic and Payet has more than a bit. When I see players who go for much more money, he’s a bargain.”
Valencia scored either side of the Payet substitution – 74 and 84 minutes – to give West Ham their first away victory in six games.
Payet told the West Ham website : “These fans are very, very good with me and very, very important to me, and [I want to say] thank you very much.”
West Ham will look to strengthen their position further with a clash against relegation-threatened Newcastle at St James’ Park on Saturday (January 16).
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