David Moyes on his desire to take West Ham to the next level

David Moyes on his ‘blips’ at Man United, Real Sociedad, Sunderland and West Ham after leaving Everton, never questioning his ability to manage… and his desire to take the Hammers to the Champions League

  • David Moyes is eager for West Ham to eventually play in the Champions League 
  • Moyes has done much good work at West Ham, who are fifth in the league 
  • Ex-Manchester United boss stresses he never doubted his managerial ability 
  • Moyes says he has always looked to get everything out of the players he has 

‘I was very, very close to another job before I took this one,’ says David Moyes, as he reflects on taking West Ham to a level they have not known in years.

Though he doesn’t say so, he is describing a Monaco meeting with Everton owner Farhad Moshiri in late 2019, when the club were ready to bring him back to Goodison Park. 

Moyes relished the idea, though it turned out that Carlo Ancelotti, who had not initially seemed all that interested, was attracted by the position after all. So that was the end of that.

David Moyes has revealed he eventually wants to get West Ham into the Champions League

Moyes has done much good work, taking West Ham to fifth place in the Premier League

How brutal football management must have seemed to Moyes in that moment, 18 months after West Ham decided they had a better candidate than him, even though he’d done what they asked and kept them in the top flight.

It was then that the second opportunity in east London materialised which, in retrospect, was so very much the better option. Calmly and assuredly, Moyes has restored West Ham. A pivotal win at Goodison Park on New Year’s Day began the four-match Premier League winning sequence which has put the team fifth.

Moyes observes casually in the course of this interview that he has had ‘blips’ during the eight years since he left Everton for Manchester United, though it has been far more bruising than that. 

The setbacks and blows at United, Real Sociedad, Sunderland and West Ham would have finished off fainter hearts and some observers seem to have taken a gratuitous pleasure in it all. ‘Probably the people who write don’t know my work,’ he says of this. 

‘One thing I’ve never done is doubted myself as a coach and a manager.’

Vindication has been particularly sweet because the success of the last 13 months — rescuing West Ham from relegation for a second time, then making them supremely competitive ahead of Liverpool’s arrival at the London Stadium on Sunday — have been built on precisely the same managerial foundations which made his Everton teams such a force.

Despite the criticism he received, Moyes says he never doubted his managerial ability

After West Ham had decided Manuel Pellegrini was a better option than Moyes, they laid out £200million on players — dazzled, it often seemed, by the latest in-vogue prospect from a far-flung nation.

Moyes has restored the pragmatism, quest for value and work ethic he employed at Everton. Agents don’t bring players through his door unless those individuals pass his character test.

Having been released in a manner which seemed harsh, Moyes could have been forgiven for telling West Ham what they could do with their job when majority shareholder David Sullivan returned to him, with the team he’d taken to 13th languishing near the foot of the Premier League. This was never a consideration, he says.

‘The big thing I admired about the owner was that he was big enough to turn up,’ he relates, on a Zoom call from his office at the Rush Green training ground. ‘Not say that he got things wrong — but big enough to come back and say, “You did do a good job. We tried something else but it didn’t work”. So I really thought a lot of them for coming back.’

What had vanished in the intervening 18 months was an on-field work ethic. ‘That was a big thing that was missing,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t just come. It comes from winning and togetherness and I try to get that but it’s not easy.

Moyes disclosed that he is always seeking to get the best out of every player that he has

‘I wanted good characters. We were in the bottom three and I was looking at a bundle of difficult games. We had Liverpool twice in about three weeks, Man City to go and play. So we were in a real difficult period.’

At Everton, his deliberations over players were borne of an acute sense that it was someone else’s money he was spending. Those who know him well say his mind has always worked that way.

He found value in the Championship: Joleon Lescott, whom he watched 20 times before the signing, Tim Cahill and John Stones. Steven Pienaar, from Borussia Dortmund, was perhaps the supreme example of great overseas value.

Tomas Soucek, who joined from Slavia Prague, has excelled for West Ham under Moyes

At West Ham this time around, Jarrod Bowen from Hull City, Said Benrahma from Brentford and Tomas Soucek from Slavia Prague, have been straight from the same playbook. Michail Antonio’s prolific goalscoring mirrors what Moyes managed to extract from Marko Arnautovic in his first West Ham spell.

‘I do think part of the manager’s job — and something I’ve always tried to look to do — is to squeeze every ounce out of every player I get,’ he says. ‘You go back to Everton and that was probably part of it there, as well.

‘I understand how you build a club — the stages you go through to get there. West Ham made too big a jump too quickly and tried to do something which I don’t think is done.

According to Moyes there are similarities between Soucek and former Everton star Tim Cahill

‘Of course, look back in history and you see clubs that have done it. But if you want to sustain it, I think you have to do it in a certain fashion. The biggest thing West Ham needed was hungry players who want to play. People with energy.’

A little time also makes a world of difference. This is the first job since Everton in which Moyes has been given more than a year.

Everton are a common reference point in this conversation. Declan Rice, a huge part of the engine Moyes has built, reminds him of what Phil Neville brought when he arrived from Old Trafford in 2005. ‘In the future, if he keeps on how he is going, Declan will be captain of England,’ he observes. ‘He certainly has the qualities.’

Soucek’s 6ft 4in frame has invited comparisons with Marouane Fellaini, though Moyes thinks there is a more appropriate Everton comparison. ‘Tim Cahill,’ he grins, ‘because Cahill was great at arriving in the box, scoring goals from midfield. Tim and Tomas have those similarities.’

We are speaking before Moyes is able to discuss Jesse Lingard’s loan move from Manchester United, though he knows from his time at Old Trafford that the 28-year-old will bring that work ethic, too. Good results transform an atmosphere. Yet the unity now seems to extend beyond the dressing room at a club who have experienced their share of strife.

The revenue benefits of a 60,000-capacity stadium had started to bear fruit before lockdown. Player investment, including the £85m Moyes has been able to spend, and a squad reshaping, is beginning to pay a dividend.

The need for collective effort during the pandemic also seems to have helped. Sullivan has committed substantially to local charities and vice-chairman Karren Brady has been heavily involved in the club community effort, while Moyes and the players have all joined the West Ham Foundation’s mission to call older fans who might presently be vulnerable, anxious or alone.

Moyes relates a particular phone conversation with an elderly supporter who has recovered from Covid: 86-year-old Iris Burroughs.

‘She told me she’d been missing getting to the stadium,’ he says. ‘For someone in her mid-80s to come to a game at West Ham every other week, it wasn’t like getting your glad rags and dancing shoes on but it was something she really looked forward to.

‘I realised that West Ham means an awful lot to this part of London. I’m not an expert on it but I come from Glasgow, a working-class city where things are difficult as well.’

Moyes says that he realises how important West Ham is to the club’s loyal supporters

You feel these calls have reinforced his sense that West Ham, just like Everton, are a ‘people’s club’, to quote the words he used at his inaugural Goodison press conference 19 years ago. Words which still adorn one of that stadium’s exterior walls.

Moyes sees the London Stadium capacity as a force to harness, rejecting any notion that West Ham might have been helped by the place being empty.

‘If this game (against Liverpool) was taking place in front of supporters, you wouldn’t get a ticket anywhere,’ he says.

There was a time when he might have bridled at the idea he is perhaps better suited to clubs at the level of West Ham and Everton, though some fairly punishing years seem to have left him less sensitive and more self-assured about observations like that. He doesn’t entirely reject the notion.

Ex-Manchester United boss Moyes admits he had blips but is now heading in the right direction

‘I want to be competing against elite managers and elite clubs,’ he says. ‘That’s the job. I want to be competing in European football if I can.’ 

He hints at a belief that he can break through the glass ceiling that Everton encountered and play regular Champions League football. ‘Yes, the notion of Champions League qualification this season is too ambitious,’ he says.

‘But I am ambitious. And because of that I’m not going to stop dreaming about it or trying to do it. I don’t want to aim low but I also don’t want to be someone who tells West Ham supporters something I can’t fulfil.’

Moyes was struck by a comment Ancelotti made this week about the short-lived tenure of football managers. ‘That part of being a manager is that you’ll be sacked. You have to accept it,’ as he paraphrases it. But after all he has been through, he knows success is something to be cherished.

‘Yes, I’ve had the blips,’ he says. ‘But I’ve had some great times. I’ve enjoyed it. I love my football. We now have a job to shape it, get it going, turn it around and make sure we’re all going in one direction. This is really just the start.’ 

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