I f you have friends like mine, then the news that David Moyes had been given the managerial role at West Ham was swiftly followed by messages of commiseration and offerings of emotional support.
Instead of feeling too glum about a seemingly uninspiring appointment, I decided to get the opinions of a few fans who’ve witnessed Moyes as a manager of their club – ‘that will cheer me up’, I thought.
It’s probably best to start with an Everton fan. After all, our new manager had a relatively successful time in Merseyside. Tom Moore is the editor of new Everton fanzine ‘The Black Watch’. He was more than happy to give me his take on how Moyes managed his club. ‘David Moyes’ last home game in charge of Everton was against West Ham in May 2013.
‘If you’d told me three and a half years later that he’d be returning to Goodison as West Ham manager with near universal ill feeling towards him, I’d have mocked you. ‘Moyes best qualities were his positivity, optimism and passion for the club.
‘He inspired a generation of Evertonians used to relegation battles with ambitious talk of Europe and beyond. Those aspirations were quickly realised and he established us in the top eight.
‘However, towards the end of his spell those positive attributes had faded. ‘His dreadful record against the big clubs, particularly away from home, was underpinned by constant talks of a glass ceiling and being unable to accomplish anything more.’
Things quickly soured for the Scot at Everton and Tom went on to describe his departure, one that was ‘met with goodwill and best wishes, but also hope for the future’.
And what about the Hammers’ future?
‘I am genuinely surprised he has been able to get another top-flight job. Moyes seems a stabilising appointment at best, rather than one that might crack the top six.’ Moyes moved on to take one of the biggest jobs in football at Old Trafford.
I spoke to Manchester United supporter Adrian Taaffe, broadcast journalist and commentator, and asked how he felt when Moyes took over. ‘Underwhelmed probably about sums it up. There’d been a frisson of excitement on the afternoon of hisannouncement when rumours emerged that Mourinho and his agent had made a late push for the job but the club quenched that hope pretty quickly.’ And sadly, his feelings didn’t change.
‘Fergie’s continuity candidate certainly ensured that the diminishing returns in terms of entertainment that United fans had grown accustomed to over his last few years would continue and worsen but Moyes lacked the ability to paper over cracks in a team and squad that Ferguson had allowed to decline.’
I naively asked about the manager’s best qualities. ‘I’m struggling to think of any. Maybe that he isn’t Louis van Gaal? But then Van Gaal’s best quality is probably that he’s not David Moyes so make of that what you will.
‘He wasn’t big enough for the job. Or at the very least he didn’t believe himself to be. ‘His demeanour, his dealings with the press – everything pointed to a man who felt himself that he wasn’t up to the job.’
It’s unfair to compare Moyes and Ferguson, but Adrian had a clear example to give some context. He explained: ‘In December 2012 Ferguson yanked Newcastle chains by spikily referring to them as “a wee club in the North-East”. ‘A year later Moyes said “Newcastle are coming to Old Trafford and we are going to make it as difficult for them as we possibly can”.
‘That’s Manchester United. “Making things difficult”. For Newcastle. At Old Trafford.’ Okay, point taken. ‘He didn’t seem cut out for dealing with the dressing room “characters” at United either – struggling to foster positive relationships with players with big personalities.
Mark Day is a Sunderland fan and season ticket holder and admitted to me that he was ‘sceptical’ when Moyes took the hot-seat in the northeast.
‘I had the thought process of – “he did very well for Everton and established them as a consistent top-10 club on a very tight budget, maybe his failure at Man Utd will make him hungry to prove the doubters wrong”. Naively, I thought he might do okay,” Mark told me.
‘In one of his first press interviews he made a comment that it was going to be a relegation battle and would be a tough season, which didn’t really get people on board with his ‘vision’. I found it a really defeatist comment to make.’ Sound familiar?
Mark went on to explain how there were encouraging signs in Moyes’ first match, however, this good work was ‘undone’ very quickly: ‘Within our first 10 matches, we all knew, this would be the season we finally go down.’ I asked Mark about the qualities that the Scot could bring, only to be told: ‘I honestly can’t answer that. I’m trying in vain but I can’t come up with anything.
My optimism is fading. ‘His negative, dull football was depressing. I didn’t enjoy watching us any more, So, to summarise?
‘I’d sum it up by saying it was a disaster equal to the Titanic hitting that fatal iceberg many years ago.’