Karren Brady believes that the departure of the talismanic Dimitri Payet in January was the catalyst for a decline in fortunes for manager Slaven Bilic at West Ham United.
The Croatian was sacked earlier this week after a poor start to the new campaign and replaced by former Sunderland boss David Moyes.
In a column for The Sun, Hammers vice-chairman Brady paid an emotional tribute to Bilic, whom she described as ‘an honest man with integrity and intelligence’.
She emphasised how difficult the decision to sack the 49-year-old had been but stated that he had struggled to come to terms with the loss of Payet to Marseille earlier this year.
“In [Bilic’s] first six months, when Dimitri Payet was inspiring the team with his Gallic brilliance, Bilic sometimes looked pensive, as though he thought this was a lucky break and might not go on,” Brady wrote.
“He never quite recovered after the player staged a strike and went back to Marseille.
“He began to run out of ideas as the team’s initial defiance to Payet’s behaviour faded and less than a year later the manager had also departed.”
There is no doubt that the Frenchman, who was instrumental as the Irons achieved a seventh-placed Premier League finish in Bilic’s first campaign at the helm, left a hole in the team that the former Besiktas boss failed to fill.
The big-money signing of Marko Arnautovic from Stoke City was designed to address the issue, but thus far he has flattered to deceive in claret and blue.
Moyes will take charge of his first match when the Irons travel to Watford next Sunday, with Leicester City visiting the London Stadium under the lights the following Friday.