Slaven Bilic's reported interest in Celtic job is a game-changer

By David Walton

May 14, 2019

Slaven Bilic’s reported interest by the BBC in the Celtic job is a game-changer.

Bilic’s most recent role as manager came in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ittihad. He only won three of 15 matches there, but that’s certainly not what the Croatian tactician should be remembered for.

The veteran coach has had tremendous experience with his national side, as well as a successful spell at West Ham United in the Premier League down south.

Slaven Bilic achieved European qualification for West Ham / (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

In his first season with the Hammers, he managed to guide them to ninth place. As well as that, he broke some fine records during that spell too. He managed three successive away wins to open up the season at Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester City respectively. It was the first time since 2007 that West Ham had won on the road three times in-a-row. The victory at Anfield, meanwhile, was their first since 1963.

The first year also ended with their highest ever points total and highest ever goals total in the Premier League era. He also managed just five away defeats – something Celtic have had problems with this season.

West Ham’s move to the London Stadium brought about plenty of inconsistency in their performances. Despite that, Bilic still came close to a top-10 finish in his second season, ending the campaign in 11th.

Bilic impressed at the London Stadium club (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

But it’s his six-year spell as Croatia manager that reads beautifully, even seven years on from his departure.

Bilic managed to guide his national team to Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. He came within one point of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2010 too.

Success at club and international level

During his time with the Croats, Bilic managed to guide them to victory in all three Euro 2008 group stage matches – a first in Croatia’s history. This included a win against eventual winners Germany.

Short spells with Lokomotiv Moscow and Besiktas have also been had by Bilic, but he failed to build on his reputation at both clubs.

Bilic is still admired for his work in reviving Croatia (Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

But what makes this such a promising link is that Bilic has experience at the highest level. He has guided teams to success at both club level and national team level. Added to that, he’s not an unrealistic candidate.

Jose Mourinho lacks believability at this moment in time. Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, is set for talks to stay at Newcastle United. But Bilic would continue the route of ambitious appointments by the Celtic board. He’s a name you could look at and be satisfied with his standing in the game compared to Brendan Rodgers’.

Let’s not also forget the fact that he brought through three famous Croatian under-21s in Luka Modric, Edouardo, and Vedran Corluka. All three would earn big-money moves to England afterward.

Bilic gave 16-year-old Reece Oxford his debut at Arsenal (Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)

Celtic have a full academy of talent that needs to be developed, and Bilic has experience in giving youth a chance. Even at West Ham, Reece Oxford was given his debut by Bilic in the 2-0 win at Arsenal back in 2015. He isn’t afraid to give youth a chance when they deserve it.

Bilic is the first real high-quality manager with believability on his side. His CV reads much better than Neil Lennon’s, and he deserves to be mentioned as a proper candidate.