Saturday 21 July 2018

Bilic admits he regrets infamous Blanc incident

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic. Photo: Getty
West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic. Photo: Getty

Matt Law

Slaven Bilic recognises he is not the man to lecture footballers who pull the wool over referees' eyes. And he will turn an occasional blind eye if one of his West Ham players takes a tumble in the penalty area.

Paris Saint-Germain manager Laurent Blanc would certainly agree with Bilic's self-assessment that "I am not Mahatma Gandhi" after the Croatian cost the then France defender a place in the 1998 World Cup final.

Bilic infamously went down clutching his face in the penalty box after being struck in the chest by Blanc during the semi-final. That earned the Frenchman a red card and a suspension for the final. Bilic insists he was trying to avoid a second yellow back in 1998.

"I'm not proud of that," he says. "I didn't want him (Blanc) to get sent off."

The issues of grappling in the box and simulation came up again this week, after West Ham's draw with Leicester City on Sunday in which Jamie Vardy was sent off for diving and West Ham were awarded a penalty after Wes Morgan clung on to Winston Reid during a corner kick.

The spot kick was only the second that West Ham have won this season, compared to seven conceded.

Bilic does not want his players to be serial divers, but he would not complain if they earned a few more penalties - starting against Watford tonight.

"I would like us to get a penalty, but we as a club don't want to get that (divers) label. . . I'm proud that we're not that kind of club," he said.

Dimitri Payet was accused of diving against Manchester United in the FA Cup this season, but Bilic said: "There was a touch, a light touch but a touch from behind. . . a touch from behind means he's not looking for contact, he doesn't see it (but) you feel a touch you go down, which is different for me than diving."

But he says grappling in the box must be dealt with: "This is a contact sport, but contact is different, you can't hold a player in the box."

Diafra Sakho is set to return for West Ham tonight for the first time since pulling out of the draw against Arsenal rather than warm the substitutes' bench.

However, the striker is still expected to quit West Ham in the summer.

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