Steve McClaren must put aside unwelcome memories of his last encounter with Slaven Bilic as he takes his Newcastle United side to face West Ham in the Premier League.
Bilic’s Croatia side defeated England 3-2 in November 2007 to deny them a place at Euro 2008 and bring an end to McClaren’s time in charge of the national side.
“I hope it’s dry!” McClaren joked ahead of Monday’s game, referring to the downpour at Wembley during which he earned the unfortunate nickname of ‘the Wally with the Brolly’.
“We know it’s sport, it’s not life or death – although it nearly was for me that night!
“We get on very well, we’ve the same passion for football. Slaven’s a good man, a good coach, a good manager and I think a perfect fit for West Ham. He’s a fantastic character.”
Bilic himself admires the way McClaren got his coaching career back on track in Holland and Germany prior to his return to English football, though he insists their rivalry matters little when it comes to the clash at Upton Park.
“That game wasn’t Steve McClaren-Slaven Bilic, it was England-Croatia and on Monday it’s West Ham-Newcastle. I had sympathy for Steve, like I have sympathy now for the Croatia coach [Niko Kovac] who was sacked this week because we lost in Oslo.
“I rate him big, big time. He was brave enough and had enough quality to prove himself in different leagues and now he’s back in the Premier League and I’m glad for him.”
West Ham have been boosted by the news that Andy Carroll is in contention to make the squad, after Bilic confirmed they have altered his training regime in order to help him avoid further niggling injuries.
Bilic could also hand a debut to three deadline-day signings, with Victor Moses, Michail Antonio and Nikica Jelavic all available to start.
The game will come too soon for Alex Song (ankle), Mauro Zarate (hamstring), Joey O’Brien (calf) and Enner Valencia (knee), while goalkeeper Adrian serves the last match of his three-game ban.
Goal-shy Newcastle, who have scored just twice in their opening four Premier League games, are without Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is banned, while Emmanuel Riviere (knee) remains sidelined.
Mike Williamson (elbow) and Paul Dummett (hamstring) are doubtful, while Sylvain Marveux (groin) and Curtis Good (hip) are out.
West Ham have won just one of their last five Premier League meetings with Newcastle and only two of their last nine at home to the St James’ Park outfit.
McClaren’s men have earned only two points from their nine previous way games in the top flight, although the last came in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United in August.
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