Slaven Bilic tells players to embrace emotion of Upton Park farewell

Slaven Bilic has told his West Ham players to play on the emotion of their final match at Upton Park.
Slaven Bilic tells players to embrace emotion of Upton Park farewell

The Hammers will run out at a packed Boleyn Ground for the last time when they host Manchester United tonight.

To add extra spice to what is already a momentous occasion for the club, they also need a victory to keep their bid to qualify for the Europa League on track.

And their visitors will be in no mood to roll over as Louis van Gaal’s side are right back in the chase for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.

Yet Bilic is counting on his players to rise to the occasion, rather than be overawed by it.

“It’s impossible to lose the emotion,” said the Hammers boss.

“Let’s say if the game didn’t mean a lot to us or to Manchester United, in the sense of this season, it would be big anyway because it’s the last game at Upton Park.

“But it means a lot to them and to us - both things have clicked, so it’s big, big. It can’t be bigger.

“If they beat us they are very close to fourth place and for us, if we want to secure a Europa League slot, we need to beat them. It’s massive.

“So the players would be emotional even if just one of those couple of things were involved. But there’s nothing wrong with being emotional.”

West Ham’s final Saturday at Upton Park ended in a damp squib, with a surprise 4-1 defeat by lowly Swansea ending their faint Champions League hopes.

It also allowed Southampton to leapfrog them into sixth place, although the Hammers would climb back above them with a win tonight.

“We were disappointed not to do better in that game,” added Bilic.

“We’d said before that the gap below was smaller than the gap to Manchester City in fourth. To be fair Southampton did a great job with wins against City and Spurs, and now they are with us.”

Despite the shock defeat to Swansea, the Hammers are looking to the future with confidence, and Mark Noble believes West Ham’s switch to the Olympic Stadium could catapult them into the Premier League’s elite.

“How big could this club be? I don’t think there is a ceiling,” said the midfielder.

“Everybody has seen what happened to Manchester City, to Chelsea, over the years. With people in the world these days with a lot of money to burn, anything can happen.”

Ireland’s Darren Randolph will deputise for injured goalkeeper Adrian but Bilic has an otherwise fully-fit squad for the match.

Meanwhile David Gold has warned that West Ham’s Upton Park farewell could be scrapped if fans invade the pitch this evening.

Around 450 former players have been invited to the match, although the club have kept their precise plans for the occasion under wraps.

And joint-chairman Gold is urging supporters not to ruin their big night by running onto the pitch after the final whistle.

“It’s very important. You want this all to go smoothly,” he said. “It can only get delayed, or dare I say it possibly even cancelled, if there’s a pitch invasion.”

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