The parallels between the early days of Moyes’ tenure at West Ham and Everton are striking if you scratch a little below the surface.
David Moyes has found a home again at West Ham. In the wet, drab and dreary drivel of last Tuesday night’s draw at home to Crystal Palace, there was something oddly familiar about the way the game panned out – into nothing, seamless.
The rate with which both men have orchestrated the media’s oblivescence of their recent professional pasts has itself decelerated a little; such is the pace with which clubs so frequently chop and change managers these days that these two men have been at their respective clubs for comparatively long periods.
This state of affairs, it must be stressed, is not an uniquely English football phenomena. Long have owners and presidents on the continent chopped and changed managers abruptly and constantly throughout a season – intent on continuously recreating that ‘new manager bounce’ for ever-overpaid and complacent players. Certain owners in Italy recycle certain managers within a season. It is a catch-22 in a lot of cases, of course, once the rot sets in it rarely fades and player-power is such at most clubs that managers are usually the first to face the chop in cases of poor form because, that’s right, it’s just cheaper and easier to do. Fans won’t get as riled about an ex-manager masterminding a victory against his old side (that happens sometimes in football) as they will an ex-player scoring a goal against them (that’s treason) and it’s financially easier to sack one manager compared to an entire squad of players.
As it happens, Roy Hodgson and David Moyes have hitherto, by all accounts, done much better than their predecessors and indeed better than anyone much expected save their now smug owners. Neither team played well at the London Stadium last week, particularly compared to the thrilling 2-2 back in October which saw Wilfried Zaha equalise for the Eagles in the 97th minute. It was perhaps the first truly meaningless fixture of the season on paper; if this is not the case off the pitch, it was certainly true on it. Opta recorded a well below average total number of game events and neither side played for a win at any point – injuries and a lack of rest saw to that and West Ham will be concerned now after defeat 3-1 to Brighton at the weekend seemed to pull them closer to the bottom than they’d like to be. They lead the pack but sit just three points ahead of 19th placed Huddersfield.
In the dressing room and on the training ground, Moyes had until recent weeks looked to have reached perfection. Now the gruelling training sessions he promised in his early press conferences seem to have caught up with the team who are dropping with muscular injuries as readily as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team and his Bayern team did before them. If the form can be recovered and the season salvaged with a respectable top half finish, David Moyes might just be the perfect fit at West Ham with his admirable stint at Everton as proof of the pudding.
Moyes arrived at Everton in 2002 towards the end of a disappointing season for the club. The team looked in danger of relegation after longstanding manager Walter Smith had failed to kick the club on and propel them towards status as nailed-on top half finishers. The board finally ran out of patience after an FA cup drubbing at the hands of Middlesbrough and replaced the future Scotland manager with a sprightly David Moyes who had gone from player to player-manager to manager at Preston North End. He won the fans over straight away with a turn of phrase that marks him out even to this day, insisting he was joining ‘the people’s club’ of Liverpool. Results on the pitch soon meant few were questioning whether Moyes could put his money where his mouth was. His take over at West Ham was not quite as late on in the season as with Everton but the similarities between the state of the clubs when he took over are plain as day. West Ham’s owners, however, are stark contrast. Bill Kenwright was known as a level and realistic chairman under which Moyes was the ideal face for the public.
As owners, Sullivan and Gold are often outspoken and crude assessors of their club’s plight – this was no more apparent recently when David Sullivan talked very publicly about his grandchildren begging him not to sign José Fonte – but they must be desperate for some stability and something resembling relative success. Few would now stand by Southampton’s decision to sack Claude Puel in the summer despite managing to get the club to a league cup final, such finals for mid-table teams are scarce and cherished rarities in this day and age and, come season’s end, if Moyes has done a good job, few would argue a case for not offering him another short term contract. If he can have a good transfer window in the summer and find the equivalents to the likes of Yakubu, Fellaini, Coleman and Baines who served him so well at Everton, Moyes could bring a period of stability to perfectly accompany West Ham’s move to their new stadium, a move the board are both so desperate to see pay off and one the fans are still unhappy with. Some solidity on the pitch, under Moyes’ stewardship, would go some way in putting paid to that.
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