David Moyes interview: West Ham manager benefiting from being ‘older and wiser’ after finding a way back

Dan Kilpatrick
·6-min read
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

As David Moyes paced his east London flat he could feel his blood pressure rising.

West Ham were playing Wolves but their manager was isolating at home with Covid, a delayed feed from the London Stadium on his TV and line to coach Stuart Pearce on his mobile.

Moyes, who was experiencing only mild symptoms, had spent the days leading up to the match overseeing training via video-link and liaising with his staff.

He thought he was well prepared – but nothing could prepare him for the impotence of swapping the dugout for his living room.

“We planned for it and the minute it happened, we went into operation,” Moyes told Standard Sport after being named manager of the year at the London Football Awards on Tuesday.

“In my mind I was good. But when it came to the game, it was really difficult. I was pacing up and down, shouting up at the tele, getting on the phone to Pearcey – for nothing half the time.”

He had no need to worry. By the 17th minute West Ham were ahead; by full-time they had won 4-0; and by the end of his isolation Moyes was a changed man.

“It made me realise that to be less emotional, to stand back and take it all in can make you a better manager,” he said. “Because you’re trying to absorb stuff and not get caught up in it.

“The period I sat in the apartment made me realise you have to be calmer, take in more. And I’ve tried to do that more since I got back.”

It is a lesson Moyes wishes he could have related to his younger self during his spell at Manchester United, which remains, to his frustration, a defining period of his career.

It took just 10 months at Old Trafford for Moyes’ reputation as one the country’s leading coaches to be tarnished but it has taken the Scot seven years to “find a way back”.

LFA
LFA

Finally, in his second spell at West Ham, Moyes is on the up again and reminding the world of why he was offered the United job in the first place.

“The truth is, I got the biggest job in the world and I didn’t do well enough, so I’m only beating myself up about it,” he said. “The more I’m asked about it, that’s the way I feel.

“What I had to do was find a way back. It is not easy because you have to find the right job. Where can I do something to show my worth?

“I used to hear people say, ‘How did it all go so wrong?’ But you don’t get offered the Manchester United job if you haven’t been doing something correct. But when it didn’t go well, I had to try and find a way of getting back.

“I didn’t think that I’d necessarily become a bad manager. Maybe I had bad timing, maybe I didn’t think deeply enough about the challenge I was taking on.

“Maybe I should have taken longer to think about it when I got offered the job. But it didn’t feel like that at the time. Now I’m a bit wiser and a bit older, looking back, I do think that I’ve still got something prove.”

After his sacking by United, a perception took hold of Moyes as an unfashionable coach, suited to a relegation dogfight perhaps but not to challenging at the top end of the Premier League.

His career had become framed by the failure at Old Trafford but West Ham’s transformation is enabling Moyes to shatter even the most established narratives about his work.

He has adapted and modernised to quickly build a side greater than the sum of its parts, capable of playing vibrant, modern football and underpinned by a fierce work ethic.

“I’ve changed a lot of things I do with the players,” Moyes said. “I’m always looking to move on.

“I wanted to know what was new in football, I wanted to make sure that I kept myself up to date with how teams were playing, new trends, how were goals getting scored. I always wanted to make sure I was at the forefront of that

“But you’ve always got to have the basics: you need your training to be good, you’ve got to have good characters, discipline needs to be excellent.

“I said to the players when I came in, ‘I’m not your friend. I’ll be your friend after we finished playing [and] there’ll be nothing I’ll enjoy better than coming for a beer with you, going for a meal with you, helping you in your careers as coaches. But while we’re here just now, my job is to get the best out of you.’”

For all his fine work this season, Moyes remains all too aware of the view that he blew his one big chance at United.

But with the Hammers just three points from a Champions League place ahead of Monday’s visit to Burnley, the 58-year-old believes he is yet to peak as a manager.

“I’ve always thought this but maybe my best time is still to come,” said Moyes. “Why should I be old?

“Maybe I’ve only just come through my apprenticeship. Maybe the jobs I’ve had have just been my apprenticeships and this is me getting to an age and experience where I can give my best.

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

“I’m saying to myself, ‘This is the time you get success, you win and get around the top of the League again’. I see this as a chance to work my way back. And [at] West Ham my job is to work my way back to a level where big clubs might consider me.

“Not that I’m interested in leaving, I’m happy. But I wouldn’t have got that [opportunity at United] if I hadn’t done my work at Everton, regularly challenging the top teams.

“If I can do that at West Ham, I’ll see it as success for West Ham and for myself. I’d love somewhere along the way be someone who wins trophies.”

In the meantime, more individual accolades could follow for Moyes, particularly if West Ham reach the Champions League for the first time, but this week’s recognition at the LFAs felt like a vindication.

“In a way, it does [prove a point],” he said. “It’s a big achievement – for West Ham United as well. I’m a little bit surprised by some of the words I hear from people because I’m doing well now.

“I feel like I must have been really bad before I got here. That’s the way it feels. And in truth I don’t think I was ever really that bad. But for some reason I’ve been put in that bracket.

“Has it driven me on? A little bit but it’s not like I’ve done any more now than I’ve done before. I wouldn’t say it’s made me any more determined. I’ve had a good career, I’ve had longevity – to do that, there has to have been a level of success.

“But I also take the point that I’ve had to rebuild to try to get back to the standard I’ve been at years ago.”

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