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Tuesday, 5 July 2016

West Ham United

The 2015/16 Premier League season may have finished on a low note for West Ham United after a 2-1 defeat by Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on the final day left them in seventh place. However, the Europa League place on offer to FA Cup winners Manchester United – who had already qualified for the Europa League by finishing fifth in the Premier League – was passed down to the Hammers, who will join the competition in the third qualifying round.

The Irons have, of course, vacated the Boleyn Ground, their home for 112 years, for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium on the London 2012 Olympic Park, but that’s not the only thing fans have to look forward to in 2016/17. Former centre back Slaven Bilic was a Hammers’ cult hero even before coming manager last summer and subsequent signings of established European players, such as Dimitri Payet from Marseille, and promising domestic talent, such as Michail Antonio from Nottingham Forest, have done little to diminish his aura.

In fact, as well as securing new deals for Payet and Antonio, along with team-mates Adrian and Cheikhou Kouyate, Bilic has already signed Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit from Borussia Monchengladbach and Algerian winger Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia. Payet was top scorer for West Ham last season, with 12 goals – top scoring striker Andy Carroll managed just 9 goals – and Bilic has reportedly been tracking German striker Mario Gomez during Euro 2016.

It’s been a while since a rare Trevor Brooking header was enough for the Hammers, then in the old Second Division, to beat Arsenal 1-0 in the 1980 FA Cup final, but Bilic’s side are 25/1 to repeat the feat in 2015/16 and 100/1 to lift the Premier League title; notably they’re just 4/1 to finish in the top six in the Premier League.

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