Slaven Bilic cut a forlorn figure during his press conference last Thursday, where he made the somewhat surprising announcement that scallywag of the month, Dimitri Payet, is no longer prepared to play for West Ham.
Bilic has never been the most charismatic of figures when in the public eye but even by this season's standards, the Croatian looked a beaten man as he explained that his star player had gone on strike and was jumping ship.
The decision to make Payet's intensions public looked like yet another PR disaster by the club, who may struggle to sell the player for their £30million asking price as potential buyers know it is also in the Hammers' best interests to sell a man who earns £125,000-per-week, regardless of whether he plays for them or not.
But whilst on the surface the publicity surrounding the whole saga may appear to be detrimental to West Ham's cause, it may yet prove a master stroke by both the club and manager, who lets not forget, was rumoured to be facing the sack following his team's shambolic home defeat to Manchester City in the FA cup.
Bilic and his players have been passive at the best of times this season and whilst it may have been funny that the goalframe was voted Man of the Match by fans, following their underwhelming 1-0 win over Hull in December, it was actually embarrassing that such a ludicrous idea was relatively plausible.
It's no secret that failure to land a top striker last summer has hurt the Hammers this year and their reliance on Payet has been misplaced, as the want-away playmaker has mustered just two goals thus far this season and has looked a shadow of the player we marvelled at last year.
Despite everything that went on before it, the win over Crystal Palace last Saturday will have warmed the hearts of many supporters, who to their credit were vocal throughout the match at the London stadium, as they watched their team turn on the style by scoring three times in the second half, including that stunning Andy Carroll volley which is already a contender for goal of the season.
If anything, the negative press before the game may well have created a siege mentality for the Hammers. Bilic suggested as much after the game when he was quick to praise the contribution of the whole team and numerous squad members have since hinted at their disgust at Payet's treatment of the club. Carroll was one such player to take a swipe at his teammate, whilst captain Mark Noble confessed he hasn't spoken to the French international for a few weeks.
There finally appears to be a real sense of purpose and unity around East London to prove to Payet that the club don't need him. Having relied on the Frenchman heavily over the last year, the players are now free to start being the very thing that they have not been for much of the season - a team.
There are of course significant limitations to the Iron's injury ravaged squad and they really do need to sort out their transfer policy if they are to land said targets Robert Snodgrass and Andre Gray. The former is having an excellent season so far and though he may become a free agent in the summer, the Hammers would do their cause no harm by splashing out on Snodgrass, whose seven goals and two assists make Payet's stats for the current season look average at best.
But what Payet's shenanigans have ultimately done is avert critical eyes away from the team's performances on the pitch, not to mention ease fears about Bilic's future. With no so called star player, there will inevitably be less media attention around the squad and the need to appease Payet with positive results will also be absent.
There may be little left to play for in their season but that absence of pressure and now determination to stop the world conspiring against them may just be the spark of inspiration that the current West Ham side, not to mention their manager, need.
And though Bilic may have seemed exasperated when he replied to yet another question about Payet by saying "Let's talk about Carroll, Randolph, let's talk about Noble for f*** sake", it will only have strengthened his position in the eyes of his players, not to mention fans, as it showed he will always place the team's cause ahead of the demands of an individual.Suggest a correction