Slaven Bilić admits returning to West Ham United will be “special” but insists he’ll be treating Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup clash as a “normal game”.
The Baggies boss managed the Hammers between 2015-17 and also played for the Londoners in the mid-90s, with First Team Coach Julian Dicks by his side on the pitch and in the technical area.
Albion, who’ll be backed by just under 5,000 supporters, travel to the London Stadium hoping to secure their spot in the fifth round for the fourth time in six seasons.
And Bilić is excited by the prospect of heading back to familiar territory to watch his side go head-to-head with Premier League opposition in the capital.
Slaven said: “My first thought when the draw was made was 'wow'.
“I can’t deny that it will be a special game for me and for Julian Dicks because we played and coached there.
“Then again, it’s just a normal game for us. It’s a big game, of course. Big stadium, big opponent and a big test for us.
“But it’s just a normal game.
“We are a Championship team and we are playing against a Premier League team.
“You are the target when you come up against a team in a lower division to you. The players are motivated because they want to test themselves against the higher teams.
“Now we are in that situation. We want to compete against a side playing one level above us. If you add to that that we are playing in a very big stadium in the Emirates FA Cup, it’s a privilege to be a part of this type of game.
“It’s not a friendly game. It’s not a testimonial. It’s an FA Cup game and it means a lot.”
Bilić used the third-round tie at Charlton to rest senior players and give valuable minutes to some of the younger members of the squad.
With a trip to Cardiff City looming on Tuesday night, Slaven revealed he’ll once again make changes for Saturday’s encounter at the London Stadium.
“It’s great to go through in the FA Cup, but we have to think about our game against Cardiff on Tuesday which is the priority and I have no problem saying that.
“We’re going to rest some players and we are going to try some players, therefore it’s going to be a good test.
“For West Ham, they’ve also had a busy schedule and they played a few days ago against Leicester. I can presume the league is also the priority for them but they are also craving a positive result, like us.
“It’s a great opportunity for the players who will feature and it’s also a great opportunity for me to watch them. We need them all.
“We have to rest some players who really need it.”