Sunday 18 February 2018

Never change, West Ham's Slaven Bilic tells England new boy Michail Antonio

Michail Antonio, pictured, was a surprise inclusion in Sam Allardyce's first England squad
Michail Antonio, pictured, was a surprise inclusion in Sam Allardyce's first England squad

Slaven Bilic has held talks with Michail Antonio to ensure the England new boy sticks to what he does best.

West Ham winger Antonio was the surprise inclusion in Sam Allardyce's first England squad for last week's opening World Cup qualifier in Slovakia.

Although he did not get on the pitch, Hammers boss Bilic is concerned that an international call-up can have a detrimental effect on a player's lifestyle and training regime.

So Bilic has taken the 26-year-old former Nottingham Forest and Reading man to one side and told him not to change the things that got him England recognition in the first place.

"We've had a few talks. On Wednesday I spoke with him a bit," revealed Bilic.

"Make no mistake, he was confident before, he's a very confident lad.

"All he has to do now is not to change - not to change the way he plays, the way he trains, everything, and we have to help him with that.

"I think it will give him more motivation and more confidence. But the key for him, and I told him yesterday, is not to forget which way of training and playing gave him the opportunity to be called into the England squad.

"You have examples of players, they get it as a new motivation to do better. They think 'if I do more sit-ups, if I concentrate more, if I eat better, I can become a regular'.

"For some reason there are players who have overdone it. They change the way they are behaving, they change the way they are playing and they change the way they are training.

"They are basically forgetting that because of that particular way of living they got their chance. I'm not talking about Michail now, of course, but that's why the talk is necessary. You talk to those players.

"Sometimes the player doesn't change but their environment changes or their friends change. It is very dangerous for some of the players but that's why I spoke to him and that's why we going to keep having talks all the time.

"We spoke yesterday and now, knowing him, he's going to put the pedal down and try to become (an England) regular. He's going to do everything."

Antonio will line up for the Hammers against Watford on Saturday with Bilic looking for a second win of the season.

Walter Mazzarri's side have just a point to their name so far, from an opening-day draw at Southampton, but Bilic is still expecting a tough encounter.

"They are a good team, last year they did really good," he added.

"Just glance at their roster and you see 18 players who are very familiar across the world. They have quality, pace, energy and stamina.

"I watched their three games during the international break. Against Chelsea and Arsenal they were unlucky. They've had very tough schedule but they've done really well."

Fit-again Dimitri Payet is set to start for the Hammers, alongside new signing Simone Zaza.

Press Association

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