David Moyes has become a laughing stock. The Manchester United job was a disaster. Real Sociedad was a damp squib. As for Sunderland, that was the disaster to end all footballing disasters.
But is he actually a bad manager? As for all, there was a reason he got the United job (and not just on the technicality of a legend that recommended him).
The serene nature of his last eight seasons at Everton, in which he delivered at least 8th place in all of them, seems a far cry from the uncertainty that has largely followed.
There was once a time when the Scot was roundly admired for his ability to spot a bargain, to organise a side, and to squeeze every last drop out of them. So why has that changed?
Could it be possible that each of his failures since Everton have involved insurmountable caveats beyond his control?
We’ve heard it a million times that it was going to be tough to follow Sir Alex Ferguson, widely heralded as the greatest manager of all time, at United. Saying that however, Moyes didn’t make it easy for himself.
Rio Ferdinand has told the story of how he and Nemanja Vidic, possibly the greatest centre back partnership of the Premier League era, were made to watch videos of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin. This blunder in man management badly exposed David Moyes’ lack of experience in managing a dressing room full of experienced winners. You’d assume that he’d have learned from that costly mistake.
In principle it seemed like a good idea then going out to Real Sociedad. A club that had recently qualified for the Champions League, and away from the cauldron of English football, getting away from it all and embracing a new culture could have been a clever move.
Only that’s just it. Moyes didn’t embrace the culture at all. In fact the seemingly little effort the Scot put into learning Spanish was a huge reason he failed at Sociedad. Despite beating Barcelona during his tenure, 12 wins in 42 matches in charge is a paltry return for a club that should be doing better than that.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016. England have been an embarrassing failure at the Euros and the FA thought it a good idea to hire then Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce. But the protracted nature of their pursuit meant that The Black Cats went into pre season managerless, and Moyes wasn’t actually in place until the 23rd of July, just a few weeks before the start of the season.
Much has been made of The Scot’s “lazy” recruitment, but given his lack of planning time going into the season, and a wantaway owner in Ellis Short having tightened the purse strings, you could argue that Moyes was backed into a corner.
Having summoned miracle upon miracle to somehow cling on to their Premier League status for so many years, David Moyes was the man who finally took them down. It was a dreadful season, as bad as any team have been in recent years (although 2015-16 Villa may have something to say about that) and while he did make plenty of mistakes, should the farcical nature of his Sunderland tenure have deterred the likes of West Ham?
Going back to his Preston days, Moyes did a brilliant job of coming in mid season and successfully steering them away from the drop. That was a long time ago and the game has changed significantly, but he was still widely considered a good manager as recently as 2013.
From Moyes’ perspective, he can’t lose here. Football fans up and down the country have written him off, sniggering at their West Ham fan friends, at the sheer ridiculousness of daring to go anywhere near David Moyes. But that’s the beauty of it. Having been written off, he can’t fail.
Relegation would be par, it’s what everybody is now expecting. Would that really be so bad for him? His already battered and bruised reputation would remain battered and bruised. But for a moment, envisage the unthinkable. What if he does well? You never know, it might just happen. What if David Moyes and his merry band of men including the likes of ‘proper football man’ Stuart Pearce, keep the Hammers up? What if this appointment is the catalyst for a West Ham march up the table?
This is probably David Moyes’ last chance to become a hero. Everything is on the line for him in this job. And maybe, just maybe, West Ham will reap the benefits of a man with nothing left to lose.
Words: Étienne Fermie | Subbing: Reuben Pinder