By Tom Blackburn
Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp says West Ham could become the biggest club in England, following their move to the London Stadium.
The 69-year-old, who managed West Ham for seven years from 1994 to 2001, says the Hammers should be competing with the big clubs after moving to the 60,000-capacity former Olympic Stadium.
“Maybe on the pitch they may [struggle to settle],” he told the Independent, “but I could see them finishing seventh or eighth again this year.
“If you look at the teams in the Premier League it could be tough, but in the long term I think it’s a great move for the club. It’s going to take them onto another level. 60,000-odd people every week at the stadium … what is the value of West Ham now? It’s gone on to a completely different level. It can be massive.
“I used to get upset when I heard people say ‘it’s not a big club’. West Ham’s always been a big club. They didn’t have a big stadium, but it’s always been a big club. You’re not a small club when you produce three players who played in a World Cup final-winning team.
“It’s always been a club which has produced its own players – it’s getting tougher now – but they’ve always played, in the main, good, attractive football.
“They got good support even when they were relegated; their support stays with them. It’s a big club and now they’ve gone to a big stadium, they’ve proved it with selling 50,000 season tickets so I think the future looks fantastic.”
West Ham were one of the surprise packages in the Premier League last season, and for a long period competed for a top-four spot before losing their form towards the end of the season to finish seventh.
However, they were granted a Europa League qualifying spot after Manchester United won the FA Cup and can confirm their passage to the group stages when they play Astra Giurgiu on Thursday night.
They drew the first leg of that tie 1-1, but are in pole position to progress thanks to Mark Noble’s away goal.
Bilic has prepared for the stadium move and Europe by bringing in eight new players this summer, including record signing Andre Ayew for £20.5million from Swansea.
Unfortunately for Bilic his squad now face a striker shortage after Ayew was injured on his debut against Chelsea last week, and targetman Andy Carroll was forced off in their first leg against Astra.
West Ham are now tracking Wilfried Bony, who is not a part of Pep Guardiola’s plans at Manchester City.
In other West Ham news, they have competition as an international goal machine jets in to England.