You often hear of football managers doing ‘stints’. I hear that word used a lot: ‘David Moyes is in his second stint as manager of West Ham United’. I even went to the trouble of looking up the word in the dictionary: ‘a person’s fixed or allotted amount of work’.
A ‘stint’, by its very nature, suggests that whatever’s being described is temporary, and that once gone, it’ll long be forgotten. It’s basically looking after something, until someone else comes along. Caretaking. Holding the fort. Whatever you want to call it.
So, Avram Grant had a stint as manager of West Ham. Pellegrini? Stint. Lou Macari? Very definite stint. But Moyes? This is not a stint. This is an era. This team, and the whole of the club’s identity, is built around Moyes, and I won’t hear a word said otherwise. Let me explain.
It’s really easy to say that because of the European win, and third successive season of European football, that of course it’s an era. But it goes deeper than that. It’s not about the results, but the whole ethos.
Look at the players at the club. Take out Antonio, who’s now into his 57th consecutive season with us, and have a look at the first team, and wider squad. It’s hard to escape the fact that this team, this squad, is rapidly being made up in Moyes’ image.
Oh, I hear you cry, but hang on a minute. You know that some of those players might not be Moyes signings at all, that they might be Sullivan specials or Steiden sensations. And yes, that may be true. Thing is though, we just don’t know. Easy to say, difficult to prove.
And if truth be told, whilst I’m sure that they will have had a hand in some of these signings – I’m not that naïve – if you look at the team and you see how it is starting to gel, to come together, it forms part of a bigger picture. Look at the signings made even since the summer. Midfield stiffened but also skilful, goal-scoring players in Kudus, Alverez and Ward-Prowse; defensive solidity with Mavropanos.
All quick, all clever, intelligent players. They fit right in with Moyes’ system of low possession and quick breaks. What about last season’s signings? Paqueta, Aguerd. Self-explanatory.
Kehrer – I had my doubts at points last season but I think he’s come on a bundle. A smart player. And of course, a signing from further back, Bowen, for whom they should be erecting a statue thanks to his winner in Prague.
You can see the mould of player and the team he is building. Whether you like the way we play or not, we have a way we play. We have an identity, and it is a broadly successful one. What’s most interesting, is that there are players for every role and that the team isn’t overloaded in any one area.
Free kick or corner? Give the ball to Ward-Prowse. Battering ram up front? Antonio please. I need that skilful player who can thread the ball through the eye of a needle – oh, that’ll be Paqueta.
Big player at the back who also comes in handy at a corner routine? That’ll be Zouma, thank you very much. There’s a role for everyone to play. Yes I know that not every signing has, so far, worked out completely. Even as I write, Danny Ings has just fired wide from eight yards out, and the irony is that there’s every chance he’s done that while you’re reading this too.
And Cornet’s probably just been caught offside. Overall though, you can clearly see where the club’s ethos is and the direction of travel. And that’s one of the other big things about the team we’re seeing.
We don’t have a Haaland, but we do have any number of players that know where the back of the net is. Every time I see us play, I expect us to score. And if you score, it makes it far less likely that you lose. At the time of writing, there’s only been four clubs who have scored in every match. Guess who one of them are?
I think this cohesion, this joined-up thinking, is reflected off the pitch in the club’s identity too. This club isn’t perfect, of course it isn’t. If it was, we’d be challenging Manchester City for titles and rolling our eyes at certain things.
However, you can clearly see evidence of positive change. We’re a more professional outfit these days. We have a dynamic squad, capable of challenging for honours; we’re an established and solid Premier League side. And we might yet win something this season, too. Buckle up. We’re in the Moyes era now, and it isn’t going away any time soon.