Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

With Payet, the Dream Will Not Fade and Die This Time; A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACE FOR WEST HAM?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

With Payet, the Dream Will Not Fade and Die This Time; A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACE FOR WEST HAM?

Article excerpt

Byline: Ken Dyer

TO answer a question by asking another one: Why shouldn't they secure one? The last little break of the season is over, this is the final push, where all the good work of the previous months can either end in triumph -- or a crushing anti-climax.

Who has the nerve to go the full distance? Who will at first falter and then fall by the wayside? Not West Ham, if their season so far is any guideline.

If Leicester had not been the big story of this Premier League campaign, then surely West Ham would have taken centre stage.

In less than a season Slaven Bilic, who was hauled onto the shoulders of adoring Besiktas fans as he left Turkey, has won his way into thousands of East End hearts with what he has achieved at West Ham.

Now Bilic and his team look ahead to the last eight matches of this most marvellous and unexpected of seasons -- with optimism and confidence.

They sit, as they have done for much of the season, just a little under the radar but still firmly in touch with the holy grail of Champions League qualification.

They are just a point behind fourth-place Manchester City -- and would surely have been two points above Manuel Pelligrini's faltering team had not crucial decisions gone against them in their 2-2 draw at Chelsea almost two weeks ago.

Can Bilic's team keep going, though, can they cope with the pressure as it begins to crank up and up and up? "Pressure?" asks Bilic with that disarming smile. "Do you call this pressure? "If it is pressure, it is positive. Real pressure is what clubs like Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich are experiencing right now. Us? We are just enjoying it. The players can't wait for the next game."

There are some who say that to maintain the momentum right up to the finishing line, you need to have done it before.

There is another school of thought, however, with Leicester as the star pupil, who flourish under the banner of 'ignorance is bliss,' or in other words: Keep calm and carry on winning. …

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