Sunday 23 October 2016

Slaven Bilic backs West Ham winger Michail Antonio for England call-up

Published 14/05/2016 | 09:06

Michail Antonio has scored 12 goals this season for West Ham
Michail Antonio has scored 12 goals this season for West Ham

Slaven Bilic says in-form West Ham winger Michail Antonio should be considered for an England call-up.

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The 26-year-old has enjoyed a fine debut season in the Barclays Premier League after arriving at Upton Park from Nottingham Forest last summer.

Antonio has been filling in at right-back during the latter stages of the campaign but still managed to score his 12th goal in Tuesday's 3-2 win over Manchester United.

And with Danny Welbeck ruled out of Euro 2016 through injury, Bilic feels England manager Roy Hodgson could do worse than check out the Hammers wideman.

"He's quality, the way he is playing, the big impact that he's had on our game and also on the Premier League," said the West Ham boss.

"I'm saying as his club manager he's scored some goals, he's made some assists, he's defending really well.

"Of course Roy Hodgson has got a good team, he's not struggling for names. England qualified with 10 out of 10 wins so it's very hard for some players to break in - somebody has got to get injured or somebody has to lose a place in his club long term.

"But if you ask me does he have enough to offer? Yeah, definitely. He's a player who when he's one against one, he's got pace, he's got strength, he's got the quality of going up and down, he's dangerous on goal. He's a great player for us.

"So does he have potential? Definitely."

Antonio's form has helped take West Ham to the verge of qualifying for the Europa League. A win at Stoke will guarantee sixth place while fifth is also a possibility.

Bilic inherited a side who reached Europe via the fair play table last term but used a mixture of fringe players and youngsters as the Hammers bowed out in the group stages.

However, he insists this time around they intend to have a real crack at the competition.

"When it's there, you want to do it," Bilic added. "In England, in the media it's always 'is it good to qualify because you have a dip because you're not used to playing three games a week', and that's a minus.

"But it doesn't matter, we really want to qualify and so we're going to do everything we can.

"Last summer was too early, me and my staff were new and we didn't have enough players.

"We didn't want to go out, we wanted to qualify, but without damaging or harming the Premier League. If we qualify (this year) it's totally different to last year.

"You don't have to start too early but what is more important is we're going to have a thicker squad, or a squad that is ready."

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