West Ham were left red-faced on Thursday night as their Europa League victory over FC Lusitans was over-shadowed by claims of a lack of respect from new Hammers boss Slaven Bilic.
The Croatian, who replaced Sam Allardyce at Upton Park, was expected to take charge of his first game since his appointment on June 9.
Instead it was academy director Terry Westley who selected the side and was in the dug-out for the 3-0 win whilst Bilic, who was presented to the sold-out crowd before the first-round qualifying clash, watched from the stands as a Diafra Sakho brace and a James Tomkins header sealed a routine victory.
And Westley was left defending the former Besiktas boss after Lusitans coach Xavi Roura accused him of disrespecting his side.
“He shows his respect for the tournament and the game by the group of players we had out on the pitch,” Westley said.
“Not every manager sits in the dug-out. The manager has flown back from a training camp (in Ireland), got here this afternoon, spent all afternoon with the players.
“He was in the dressing-room for the team talk. We presented (Lewis) Page and (Reece) Oxford with their debut shirts and the manager and the chairman did the talk.
“They said ’Wear these shirts with pride and some honour. You are following some outstanding players, (Geoff) Hurst, (Bobby) Moore, (Frank) Lampard, (Rio) Ferdinand ... it’s time for you to create your legacy.’ The manager did that speech. He was very respectful for the game.”
But Roura, whose side welcome West Ham to Andorra for the return leg next Thursday, saw things differently and was upset by Bilic’s no-show in the dugout.
“Slaven Bilic showed a lack of respect by not being on the bench,” he said.
“It does make me sad, in a country where fair play was invented, that something like this could happen. I think he must have thought our team was not important for him to be present.
“I imagine that he has won many titles and maybe he thought he was the ’Special One’. The minimum thing I can hope for is that this won’t happen again.
“I think he is the West Ham coach so I expected him to be on the bench. Slaven Bilic, ’The Special One’, should come to Andorra.”
Despite Roura’s plea for Bilic, who has yet to face the media since landing the job, to turn up next week, Westley admitted he is likely to be disappointed.
“I wouldn’t have thought so, with all that he’s got going on. He can’t be in two places,” Westley said when asked if Bilic would be present for the next leg.