The appointment of David Moyes as the new West Ham manager has caused divide and debate among fans.
In fact, the swell of displeasure from supporters on social media is even reported to have alarmed the board so much as to briefly reconsider their options, before announcing Moyes’ arrival on a two-and-a-half year deal with a break option at the end of this season. Many fans are angered by a perceived lack of ambition. They cite Moyes’ terrible recent record as a sign of impending doom and blame the board for their lack of decisiveness in the summer when the pool of available candidates was perhaps better.
With the international break upon us, West Ham fans are in a curious state of limbo. We don’t really know what to expect. Is Moyes going to return rejuvenated from his recent failures and be ‘Everton Moyes’? Or is he a man haunted by his recent record, doomed to repeat Avram Grant in following up a relegation with taking West Ham down the next season?
Fortunately, Tom Walsh, writer for the excellent Roker Report, the prominent and popular Sunderland AFC fansite, is on hand to offer some detailed insights into life under David Moyes. Quick warning: this one’s not for the faint-hearted...
Q: So West Ham fans are fairly split about the appointment and there’s a fair amount of apprehension. Cast your mind back a year and a bit since Moyes got the job at Sunderland. What advice do you have for West Ham fans who aren’t sure what to make of all this?
Roker Report: Oh West Ham, what are you doing? You know that episode of The Simpsons where the people of Springfield are hoodwinked by the smooth sales pitch of Lyle Lanley to build a monorail in their city? And you know, that bit where Marge goes to North Haverbrook - a town which once proclaimed “where the monorail is king!” - and finds a total ghost town and a completely knackered monorail hanging from the track? Sunderland is North Haverbrook.
Moyes’ appointment was originally met with positivity but he managed to destroy that within the space of a month. He was seen a safe pair of hands to carry on the good work of Big Sam. We heard all the platitudes from people like Kevin Kilbane who told us he’d make us hard to beat and he was the stabilising presence we needed. Sound familiar?
Long story short, we went down with 24 points. My advice would be to keep your expectations very, very low. Moyes was an absolute car crash at Sunderland. The most damning part of his tenure was that he made me utterly detest my own football team, and football in general. It is a sentiment that has hung around like a fart in a lift at the Stadium of Light ever since.
I am genuinely seething that this absolute charlatan has been given another crack at the Premier League. He should be rotting somewhere like Falkirk getting routinely walloped at home by Dunfermline and Greenock Morton. Anyway, have fun Hammers.
Q: It sounds like a grave concern. In terms of the football, fans are trying to anticipate what Moyes will bring to the club. Some are looking forward to him instilling some much-needed organisation and discipline. They’re looking forward to seeing us become much harder to beat. So having watched one for a year, what are we to expect from a David Moyes team?
RR: If he was capable of bringing discipline and organisation to a team, he didn’t show it at Sunderland. He is still incredibly bitter about getting his arse handed to him at Man United, harps on about how great he was at Everton and completely glosses over his terrible tenures at both Real Sociedad and Sunderland.
What we saw in the past season was a team without any leaders on the pitch, no semblance of organisation and a group of players completely disillusioned with their manager. He brought this all on himself, of course, regularly labelling the players as not being good enough, stating we were in a relegation fight after two games and alienating our most creative players for no reason.
Q: You mention players being disillusioned with him. What happened there?
RR: Imagine you’re playing for a Premier League club, you’ve had a tricky start to the season and lost your opening two matches - one away to former Premier League champions and the other to a newly promoted side. They were fairly tight matches and on another day you would’ve picked up a point or a victory. It’s still only August and it’s not the end of the world.
Now imagine hearing your manager say in the aftermath of these TWO games that you’re in a relegation fight. What is that going to do to your morale? Then imagine you’re a player angling to move to a Premier League club and you hear a manager say that. Would you move to that club?
Moyes shrouded this club in negativity so early when there was no need to. We missed out on targets such as Ryan Mason who opted to move to Hull - despite them only having 9 fit players.
His treatment of Wahbi Khazri was frankly appalling. Here was a player who was a revelation towards the end of 2015/16 season under Big Sam. He could produce moments of magic and, yes, he was frustrating but that is what you get with flair players. Moyes froze him out for reasons unknown to anyone and persisted with the painfully out of form Adnan Januzaj and Fabio Borini.
Q: What happened with Khazri? He looked good every time he played us and he looks to be quite enjoying himself on loan at Rennes this season?
RR: Khazri was only brought back in after relentless fan pressure and scored direct from a corner in his first start [against us]. It wasn’t just Khazri, Jeremain Lens (who had performed well in the opening games of the season) was loaned to Fenerbahce with no replacement lined up, leaving us relying on Duncan Watmore, who then got a cruciate ligament injury. It’s no surprise Khazri is enjoying it out in France, I would be too if I had to experience the season he had last year.
Q: We have lots of attacking players and a big problem of ours has been finding the right balance and the right system. Looking at our squad, what players do you see Moyes picking and in what formation? Who will thrive and who will fade away?
RR: He once dropped Didier Ndong (our best midfielder and our record signing) because we needed “Britishness” in the middle of the park and then picked Irishman Darron Gibson instead - so he is going to bloody love Mark Noble.
On paper, West Ham have a pretty decent, if a little imbalanced, squad. I imagine he’ll adopt a sort of 4-3-2-1 formation with either Andy Carroll or Javier Hernandez at the apex. Expect routine, aimless long balls up to the big man even if you’re not playing one. He’ll crowbar players into the wrong positions and not utilise your creative players - expect to see Marko Arnautovic on the bench a lot. And then probably fall out with someone really good like, say, Manuel Lanzini.
Also, how many right backs you got? Ol’Moyesy loves a right back, so much so that we would routinely play three at once. Oh and if you’re defending a slender lead expect to watch your side drop back and back and back and back and back, no matter how rubbish the opposition is.
Q: Moyes may have endured a terrible season at Sunderland. But how much do fans blame Moyes himself for their relegation? Was the writing not already on the wall? And do you think he can learn from his mistakes?
RR: Sunderland supporters are a little torn on this matter. It wasn’t until very late in the season that they fully turned on Moyes but when they did, boy howdy it got poisonous. It’s true that a lot of the focus has shifted to the lack of investment and poor decision making of our board of directors. But personally I hold Moyes fully accountable for our relegation.
He managed to suck the life out of a club that was buoyant after surviving with a very strong end to a campaign under Big Sam. He spent over £30 million giving all his old Everton mates a final payday (Joleon Lescott, anyone?), he refused to take any modicum of blame for his failings and created a team in his own miserable image. Oh, and he threatened to slap a female reporter.
Will he learn from his mistakes? Absolutely not. Why would he need to? He’s managed to shit yet another golden egg and convince a bunch of out-of-touch owners to give him another crack at the Premier League.
I have never hated a manager as much as David Moyes.
Q: But don’t you think he now has a point to prove? For example in his first press conference he came across as someone prepared to be decisive. Doesn’t he seem ready to leave last year behind him?
RR: He’ll say he has to point to prove and he’ll make your players work hard and be organised blah blah blah. He said exactly the same things when he took over at Sunderland. Fact of the matter is, deep down I bet he can’t believe his luck he’s got another Premier League job. Sunderland should’ve been the death knell of his career and I can only assume that your owners still think it’s 2011.
I saw the snippets of his press conference and the nerve of the bloke is truly astounding. It was classic Moyes though, to completely absolve himself of blame and give the nod to all the London-based journalists and laugh off “ah, you know what Sunderland is like, who could manage that rabble?!”.
Funny really considering managerial masterminds such as Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet made a much better fist of it than Moyes. He says that he didn’t enough due diligence on Sunderland before he got the job. I’d argue that we didn’t do enough due diligence on him. If we had, we would’ve found out we were getting an incredibly bitter, footballing dinosaur that saw Sunderland as a club somehow beneath him. He had good players at Sunderland. He had a hugely in-form Jermain Defoe, the best English goalkeeping prospect in a generation in Jordan Pickford, a defensive powerhouse (at the time) in Lamine Kone and a team that had found a way to win before his arrival.
Q: It doesn’t sound like you think Moyes will be a success at West Ham then...
RR: I have no grievances with West Ham (aside from that terrible stadium you’re currently playing in), you seem an alright bunch and always rock up to the Stadium of Light in decent numbers. However, I hope David Moyes is as bad for you as he was for us so he can finally be exposed as the utter, utter failure he is.
Sorry, lads and lasses.
So there you have it folks. Roker Report’s verdict on Moyes is unequivocally damning. In their eyes, Sunderland clearly wasn’t the lost cause it’s subsequently been dismissed as. Think he comes across as someone ready to enforce some much-needed discipline? Tom says he’s heard it all before. Think he’ll get the players buying into him? If so, a lot is going to have to change.
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