Ten years on from Allardyce, is Sullivan treating Moyes the same?

The ex manager and Stuart Pearce discussed all things West Ham on a recent podcast

David Moyes (West Ham manager) at the West Ham United v Liverpool EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 27th April, 2024.

As a West Ham fan, there are sets of words which you know are just going to divide the fanbase. ‘David Moyes’ for instance – depending on who you utter those words to, you’ll receive either a ‘it’s time for him to go’ or a ‘he’s done a fantastic job, he should stay’ response.

Here’s another set of divisive words: ‘Sam Allardyce’. Ten years on from his departure, the mere mention of his name stokes emotion. Now, to me, there was always some antagonism around Big Sam being at West Ham – perhaps his reputation as a long-ball, defensively-minded merchant preceded him.

But I’ve always thought he had a bit of a rough ride whilst at the club. At the time he took over, we were a basket case of a club, having sacked Avram Grant – but he got us back to the Premier League at the first time of asking in 2012, which is not an easy thing to do. Just ask any Southampton, Charlton, or Ipswich Town fan, or indeed even a fan of Manchester City, who themselves suffered relegation down to League One in the late 90s.

Under Big Sam, we achieved solidity – 10th in the first season back in the Premier League, 13th in the second season. Two Manager of the Month awards too after periods of successive wins. The only fly in the ointment was the drift from fourth place at Christmas in the 2014/15 campaign, to an eventual finish of 12th, after which Allardyce left.

Overall, though, in my book he was the right person for the club at the right time, offering much needed stabilisation. And so, I tuned in with interest to a recent edition of the ‘Tippy Tappy Podcast’, which Allardyce can be found on, after discovering that he was in conversation with the legendary Stuart Pearce, a player and person I utterly admire.

Amongst other things, West Ham matters were on the agenda – and their conversation was quite revealing. Firstly, both Pearce and Allardyce were very complimentary of West Ham and David Moyes in particular.

Pearce described how hard Moyes works at the club, and how much he enjoyed working with him during his time at the Hammers. To give a sense of the efforts that Moyes goes to, Pearce said he left because he wanted to improve his quality of life – the early starts and late finishes eventually taking their toll.

However, such is Pearce’s association with the club, that he still goes into West Ham from time to time, most recently helping with the St George’s Day celebration in April – and, in his words, assisting with the tea and scones to get up Moyes’ Celtic nose! Most interestingly, though, with all the chatter around Moyes’ future swirling outside of the club, Allardyce and Pearce shared their views on whether it would be right for him to leave or not. And their stance was clear.

Pearce describes Moyes’ influence in glowing terms, talking about how he’s changed the whole culture of the club. He works hard and expects others to do the same. He also points out that over West Ham’s years of existence, ever since the Thames Ironworks days, the club has only won a handful of meaningful trophies – and Moyes, of course, was responsible for adding the first in a generation.

He points out Moyes’ record: a 6th-place finish, a 7th-place finish, a European semi-final, final and a trophy, and quarter-final. A period of sustained success not seen at West Ham certainly in many years, and possibly never. His view on a possible managerial change? ‘Be careful what you wish for.’

These sentiments were echoed by Allardyce, who thinks there’s real quality at West Ham, again down to Moyes. Bowen being one of the ‘best signings ever in the Premier League’, having left Hull City for a relative pittance; the capture of Kudus and Paqueta; Moyes getting the best out of Antonio, although admitting that his best days are now behind him; and he expressed the view that West Ham were ‘one decent centre forward away’ from becoming a seriously top team, although that would involve spending serious money – with £70-£80 million required.

In the whole piece though, perhaps the most insightful comment made me feel sorrier for Allardyce and gave me a little more insight into the way that chairman David Sullivan works, and how challenging that must be at times. Allardyce claims that his contract agreement was dragged out by Sullivan, even though West Ham were riding high in the league at the time.

According to Allardyce, given that he thought he’d done a decent job, not having a new contract was a massive distraction for him – and so, he decided to leave at the end of the season come what may. This may partly explain our decline that season – and Allardyce makes the point that the same thing is happening with Moyes now, where history appears to be repeating itself somewhat.

When asked whether Moyes would be there at the start of next season, Pearce – as we all are – was unsure. Interestingly, he describes West Ham fans as having hang-ups over the style of play – harking back to the ‘glory days’ of the 1970s, which he questioned even existed.

That’s something heard in other quarters of the media too, that is bound to rile some of the fanbase. All in all though, an interesting conversation and worth a listen. I warmed to Pearce and Allardyce in particular: someone who might not be perfect but who is a human being, and someone I feel has been treated badly by some sections of the West Ham fanbase, again not unlike Moyes.

When you consider his achievements, and the circumstances that he was working under, he worked miracles with that squad. Ten years on, I respect his views and will always be grateful that he got us out of the Championship, a place where – as he points out – we have never returned to, and I hope we don’t end up doing so again any time soon.

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