‘My stock had dropped… but I have never doubted myself’: David Moyes opens up on rebuilding his reputation to lead West Ham into Europe, bouncing back from his Man United sacking, and why ‘terrific’ Declan Rice will stay at the club
- West Ham and David Moyes secured a superb Europa League finish this season
- The achievement marked Moyes’ pivot from recovery to sealing a fine triumph
- Moyes is building again, like he did at Everton, and has his sights set on the elite
- Speaking exclusively to Sportsmail, Moyes tells the story of his success this year
It is one of the simple pleasures of football to see the green shoots of recovery spring up beneath a good man and a good manager and lift him clear of the toxic hoots and lingering schadenfreude that had become the backdrop to his career. In the season just ended, recovery turned to triumph and carried David Moyes back to the place where he belongs.
For longer than his admirers would have wished, Moyes bore the aggressively bewildered look of a man besieged by adversity as his standing in the game slipped in the public mind following his short-lived reign as Manchester United boss. Those days are gone. The grim chuckle, which has always been the surest sign of happiness in the West Ham United boss, is back.
He is building again. Brick by brick, just like he used to do at Everton in the decade and more that he spent there between 2002 and 2013. He has been given a chance to work how he works best and he has seized it. Building it up and building it up. This season, his first full season at the London Stadium, the edifice shot up until it nearly scraped the sky.
David Moyes has opened up to Sportsmail about the rebuilding of his reputation at West Ham
It was only in the last couple of weeks of the campaign that West Ham were forced to give up on their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. It was a startling transformation from the season before when Moyes, 58, had rescued the Hammers from relegation as the club was caught in the middle of acrimony between some of its supporters and the owners.
When the supporters came back on the last day of the season, there was far less to be angry about. Moyes has seen to that. Little wonder he is said to be about to sign a new 3-year deal at West Ham. ‘I actually see the opportunity to make a good club great again,’ Moyes says. ‘There is so much more that can be done, so much more that can be improved upon. That is the bit that excites me more than anything.
‘I have mellowed a bit like most of us do as we get older but I prefer to say I have become more experienced. I have had a really good career but there is part of me thinking ‘is the best to come, is the best just round the corner?’ And the early stuff was just my apprenticeship and this is me taking the job on properly. I am hoping that is the way it goes.
West Ham secured a Europa League spot on the final day of a memorable season for the club
Moyes, in his second spell in charge, has been widely praised and he wants to make them great
‘When I think back to where I was in my first job at Preston North End, I think to myself that that was probably the best version of me because you don’t carry any baggage. You are not thinking about what the supporters are thinking, you are not thinking about what the media are thinking. You manage in all your glory.
Now there is a different world out there. There is media and there is baggage but we just have to keep building.’
He smiles when he hears talk of ‘redemption’. He says he can hear the pity in people’s questions sometimes when they talk about his fall and ask him how it felt to be brought so low. Sympathy irritates him. He will not identify with his portrayal as a man scarred by his brief tenure at Manchester United, flitting fretfully from one job to another in search of the prize he lost. He does not recognise the picture of that man, he says.
Not when he looks back over a season that has seen him re-establish his reputation as one of the best managers in English football. Not when he knows that he has lifted West Ham from the doldrums of the Premier League into next season’s Europa League, finishing sixth, above Arsenal and Spurs. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was the League Managers Association Manager of the Year but Moyes was not far behind.
Moyes admitted his stock dropped after his sacking at Manchester United and other failures
‘My stock had dropped,’ Moyes says, ‘but I never really felt as low as people thought I must be feeling. I get reminded of it by journalists asking questions like ‘have you redeemed yourself?’ and ‘you’ve made yourself much better, haven’t you?’ I never really felt that low personally but it sounds like in the outside world, there was that impression of David Moyes.
‘I was a bit surprised by that but I can understand it. In a way, it has driven me on to try and challenge it. I would love to be challenging the elite managers again. I was doing that in my best time at Everton. Even at Manchester United, we got to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and stuff like that. People forget. There are a lot of good things and sometimes they are misstrewn.’
There were a lot of good things. Enough good things for Sir Alex Ferguson to recommend Moyes as his successor at Old Trafford and for the recommendation to be accepted. Moyes lasted 10 months before Ed Woodward’s nerve failed him, a decision which ushered in a cycle of shallow, impressionable appointments from which United are only now emerging under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Moyes’ time at Real Sociedad soured after a year, he was swallowed up in the black hole at Sunderland that has devoured so many good managers and then, after he had started well at West Ham in his first stay at the club, the board decided they wanted to turn to a more exotic manager and replaced him with Manuel Pellegrini, who was a disaster.
Having moved from club to club, Moyes was also swallowed up in the black hole at Sunderland
To the credit of owners David Sullivan and David Gold and chief executive Karren Brady, they were all big enough and smart enough to admit their mistake. In December 2019, with the club hovering a point above the relegation zone, they went back to Moyes and asked him if he would come back to finish what he had started and the manager and the club have never looked back.
‘I have felt I probably have had to prove myself again,’ Moyes says, ‘but I have never doubted myself. You manage Everton for 11 and a half years, I don’t think you stay in work that long if you do a bad job. I certainly don’t think you get offered the Manchester United job if you are not considered at a certain level.
‘But when the job at United came, it didn’t work and I didn’t do well enough in ten months and I accept that but I do think that people who understand football would also accept there were many other reasons why it didn’t work and it is still tough. I needed somewhere where they were going to allow me to work the best I could.
‘You start to find out a bit about yourself. I have become a better manager. I am not quite as emotional as I was. I am calmer, even though it might not look that way. I am probably better at delegating now than I was when I was younger. I also think I have retained a real fighting spirit. I love the game totally. I love watching football. I love going to the games. I like being involved with the players.
Moyes accepts he ‘didn’t do well enough’ at United but has now emerged as a ‘better’ manager
‘All those things meant that when I came back, I needed a club which I could build. If you look at my history, that’s where I have been best. This has been my first full season at West Ham and we have qualified for Europe. Nearly all my years at Everton, we were competing for European football. We were always round there.
‘If you add the first spell at West Ham into it, I have come back twice and saved them from relegation. So sometimes I don’t know if you get the recognition for certain jobs because they are not in the spotlight and you don’t get silverware at the end of it.
‘I would like to get more silverware in the future and my best chance of winning silverware is building West Ham up and giving them a chance and that is what we did at Everton. We had got to an FA Cup final, we had got to the Champions League once and I think with what is going on unless you have got billions of pounds, I don’t know if there’s a better way of doing it than building your club up.’
Gary Neville lamented recently that the absence of fans at games for the vast majority of the season just passed has robbed Moyes and West Ham supporters of the chance to bond over the startling improvement in their side after a start to his second spell in charge that was set against the backdrop of a fractious, rebellious atmosphere at the London Stadium.
With Europe secured, Moyes is now hopeful of building up West Ham to push for silverware
It may be that in the early stages of the season, when recovery was still fragile, the absence of fans who had grown so unhappy with the board gave West Ham’s players more freedom to play without fear in an atmosphere shorn of recrimination and discontent. The transformation in the team that Moyes has wrought means the stadium should have a very different feel next season.
‘No supporters like to be near the bottom of the league,’ Moyes says. ‘When you are up near the top and you are competing and you are introducing a lot of new young players to the squad who you think are committed and determined and all the words you would want as a football supporter, I think we have got that in abundance at the moment.
‘We have tried to make the team new and better. We have not changed everything. We have not managed to solve all the problems but we are doing our best to move things on the best we can. Thankfully, now we have got a club which is all aligned, all beginning to go in the right direction, everybody singing from the same hymn book and that is really helping us.
Moyes explains that the staff at the club have done their best to all push in the right direction
‘We have a small recruitment department and that has to be addressed because that is not the situation at any other club. We have to put that in place. We have to have a professional ethic about how we go about our business. We want everybody to know that the job is getting done to the best of our ability and we make decisions for the right reasons. We need the supporters behind us and I want to try to help build a bridge so we become a more all-in-one football club.’
Moyes will be without long-standing number two Alan Irvine next season after his assistant announced last week he was stepping away from the job for personal reasons but to safeguard the progress the club has made this season, Moyes is desperate to keep hold of the key players who have effected the improvement.
That list is led by Declan Rice, the central midfielder who has been an inspiration for his side and is set to play a key role for England at the European Championships this summer.
Rice has been linked with a host of leading clubs, most notably Chelsea, but the fact that West Ham are now part of England’s top six and heading in the right direction again may mean it will be easier for Moyes and the club to fend off the advances of other suitors.
Declan Rice (left) and Jesse Lingard (right) were two of West Ham’s star performers this season
‘I don’t think it will be difficult to keep hold of him,’ Moyes says, ‘because he is under contract. So we don’t have a concern about that. I believe that Declan will stay because he is part of something that he is growing in. He is one of the new group of players, him and Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal.
‘Declan is in a position where people will be looking at him. He is a terrific boy. He conducts himself really well. I want him to stay as long as he wants to stay. I like him. He is a really big part of what we do. Like all players, I’m not selling any of them if I have my way.
‘Through my journey as a manager, I had to sell Wayne Rooney at one point and you have people who are super talented and it can happen but if it did, it would only be for extraordinary money. We wouldn’t want it to happen because we value Declan too much. I enjoy working with him and I think his development here will be really important.
‘I think he will play a big part for England at the Euros. His energy, his youthfulness, his ability to be resilient and continue playing, his ability to recover the ball, they will all allow England to have a more positive emphasis in other areas.
Moyes says he fully expects Rice to stay at the club and also insists he is a ‘big part’ of his team
‘England are filled with incredibly talented attacking players and, to allow them to go and do what they want to do, you need somebody who is going to make sure you are secure defensively. And the other part of that is that when you don’t have the ball, you need to be able to recover it and get it to those people. Declan covers those bases.’
Moyes gets up to go. West Ham’s emphatic final-day victory over Southampton confirmed that they had achieved their highest points total in a Premier League season, another ringing endorsement for the job Moyes is doing.
‘We have not done it right all the time,’ he says, ‘but we are trying really hard to keep moving forward and not slip back to where we were a few years ago.’ Brick by brick, the build goes on.
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