Slaven Bilic was delighted with the way Michail Antonio took his chance in West Ham’s draw against Stoke City at Upton Park on Saturday.
The winger had made just a handful of substitute appearances for the Hammers since his £7million summer switch from Nottingham Forest.
Even co-chairman David Gold appeared to have forgotten about Antonio, mistakenly retweeting a picture of him after an internet prankster appealed for information on a ‘missing friend’.
But amidst an injury crisis at Upton Park, Antonio was handed his first start against Stoke and grabbed his opportunity with an all-action display in the goalless draw.
“Michail did really well,” said Bilic. “He worked hard and has been waiting for his chance. Now he has got it and he used it really well.
“Sometimes it is hard for a player to come in and take their chance when they get it. But he did exactly that and I am really pleased for him.”
Antonio went close to claiming all three points for West Ham, but his second-half volley was beaten away by Stoke keeper Jack Butland.
With Victor Moses ruled out for around six weeks with the hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester United, Antonio is likely to feature heavily over the Christmas period.
“It felt unbelievable to get a chance,” he told the club website. “This was my boyhood dream to play in the Premier League and I’ve managed that.
“Playing at Old Trafford last week set me up well for this game. It showed me the levels of the league and it was a good 50 minutes.
He added: “They have been 0-0 draws, but they haven’t been 0-0 games. Against Man United we had quite a few opportunities, and in this game I had quite a few opportunities.
“We hit the post with Mauro Zarate as well, so we definitely have the attacking threat, it’s just putting it in the back of the net.”