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Favourite Bilic puts country before 'my club'

PUBLISHED: 11:51 11 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 05 October 2010

By JONATHAN CLEGG SLAVEN BILIC emerged as the overwhelming favourite for the manager s position at West Ham within minutes of last week s resignation by Alan Curbishley. But the Croatia boss ultimately saw his chances of landing the job scuppered by his c

By JONATHAN CLEGG

SLAVEN BILIC emerged as the overwhelming favourite for the manager's position at West Ham within minutes of last week's resignation by Alan Curbishley.

But the Croatia boss ultimately saw his chances of landing the job scuppered by his commitment to his national side.

The former Hammers defender, who was accused of betrayal by some supporters following his switch to Everton in 1995, demonstrated unusual loyalty by refusing to walk out on his current role.

Bilic, who signed a two-year contract extension worth about £100,000 a season with Croatia in May, could have commanded a salary closer to £2m a year from West Ham and admitted that the prospect of managing his former club was tempting.

"I've always said West Ham will be my choice when I return to England - however, my contract with the Croatian FA expires in 2010 and I am intending to lead Croatia in this period," Bilic said this week.

"I'm not going anywhere. Any club from England is a great opportunity. Not for money, honestly - for me it's about ambition.

"West Ham is my club. I have feelings for them but I won't go. My wish is to stay here another two years but, if I lose a couple of games and they say 'off you go' then maybe I will go.

"But my answer is clear. I had many offers in the period between our win at Wembley last November until I signed a new deal in May. I decided to stay. Whether that's good for me only God knows."

There is much to admire about Bilic's attitude - not least his refusal to allow the speculation to interfere with his preparations for Croatia's two World Cup qualifying matches in the past week.

Likewise West Ham were wise to move on with their search for a new manager rather than waste time pursuing a single candidate when other prospective managers had expressed interest in the job.

Yet the suspicion remains that both parties have lost out.

For West Ham chairman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the appointment of Bilic would have gone a long way to appeasing

disgruntled fans, who have been unimpressed by his stewardship of the club.

Meanwhile Bilic has seen his stock rise since he helped to eliminate England en route to Euro 2008, but there is no guarantee he will find it so easy to qualify for the coming World Cup at England's expense.

The two sides are reported to have discussed a part-time arrangement, where Bilic would become manager of West Ham and continue with Croatia until January, but an agreement proved out of reach.

It could be that both Bilic and West Ham come to regret their failure to strike a compromise.

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