West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has a lot of worries on his mind at the moment – but the potential departure of star player Dimitri Payet in the January transfer window is not one of them, he says.
He’s confident the French international will be at the club come Valentine’s Day despite the playmaker starting rumours with his “closed the door to nothing” remark last month.
Speaking ahead of West Ham’s tough tie against Tottenham, Bilic said Payet is going nowhere – although he did indicate he hadn’t raised the subject.
He said: “I read it but he said nothing major. He said he didn’t want to close the door to something, he didn’t say ‘I want to leave’ in January or June or whatever so let’s not make a big issue.
“I’m quite relaxed. We are not going to talk about it particularly but with every big player there are a lot of rumours and interest. So I don’t have to talk to him about it.”
The derby match against Spurs on Saturday evening (November 19) throws West Ham back into the heat of the Premier League after the international break. The time-off gave the Irons’ roster of injured players a chance to heal, but not all will make an immediate return at White Hart Lane – where the manager made his playing debut.
Bilic said: “We have players back, like Diafra Sakho, and a few players are getting there. Hopefully they’ll be back next week and players like Andy Carroll and Gokhan Tore will be back quite soon. They are training individually and with the U23s and hopefully soon they’ll start to train with us. Sakho has been training with us for a couple of weeks’ time.
“Winston Reid didn’t go to play for New Zealand because in the Everton game he got a small injury. He was suspended for the game against Stoke so he missed that anyway, but he’s back in training and he looks good. It wasn’t a long break for him. Ginge [James Collins] – he didn’t play for Wales but it was minor as well, and he’s back in training.”
He’ll need his players quickly to find their feet and their pace against a formidable side hunting a top four finish.
He said: “We have improved since the last [international break]. We are more solid, have more clean sheets and have a few good performances. We can see it’s all about a couple of points, but we need those points. Even if we had beat Stoke, we would be mid-table because it’s still so tight. We are 17th. You are very close to the relegation and you have to improve.”
Back in training
For players like Mark Noble training must seem like the old days. Because two former stalwarts have been allowed to train with the club to keep their fitness levels high.
Kevin Nolan, who had a shortlived and torrid stint at Leyton Orient is currently without a club and striker Carlton Cole was released by US third tier side Sacramento republic in October.
Cole said: “It is nice to be back at West Ham and I am just trying to keep myself fit. It is the end of the season in America and I want to keep ticking over and plan to be here for a couple of months.”