Wednesday 1 March 2017

Moyes aiming to reign in Spain

Pete Jenson

David Moyes could have sunk without trace after a bruising 10 months at Manchester United but instead he has resurfaced at a place where there is never a dull moment
David Moyes could have sunk without trace after a bruising 10 months at Manchester United but instead he has resurfaced at a place where there is never a dull moment
David Moyes

David Moyes likes things to be done properly. That is one of the reasons why he'll never forget an exchange of letters with Bobby Robson 18 years ago.

As an aspiring coach at Preston North End, still months from taking his first job in management, he asked Britain's most distinguished manager working abroad if he could visit him in Barcelona.

"I was a young coach trying to find places to go and football to see. So I wrote him a letter and I got no reply," recalls Moyes.

"Then about two months later a letter came back to say: 'I'm really sorry, David, your letter had been put to the bottom of the pile; you're very welcome to come out here. I would love to see you and it is great to hear that you're interested. . . but I might be about to lose my job.'

"I kept the letter because it was a great example of how managers should deal with people - it was handwritten by Sir Bobby, not just typed out by the secretary. And he did lose his job at the end of that season - to Louis van Gaal."

What a conversation the two men would have now. Moyes, also succeeded by the Dutchman, but he is off to the Nou Camp today, rebuilding his career in La Liga with Real Sociedad and embracing a foreign football culture as Robson did perhaps better than anyone.

Poisoned

Moyes is also proving to be every bit as much the football survivor as Robson, who drank from the poisoned chalices of both the England and Barça jobs and still kept his career rolling on.

Moyes could have sunk without trace after a bruising 10 months at Manchester United but instead he has resurfaced at a place where there is never a dull moment.

A fortnight ago it was the Basque derby; today it's Lionel Messi; next week they could all be out on strike, with the Spanish FA at war with the Spanish League.

"I'm going to be here next season," Moyes says emphatically. And he wants to bring in two or three British players and some Premier League intensity.

This is a culture where everyone is comfortable on the ball but the ball is too often not in play because players go down easily or it is kicked out by the opposition. A high-energy side who go against that grain could really prosper.

"I hope I can make Real Sociedad play with a faster, more intense, British style," he says.

But he doesn't want to be the know-it-all outsider. And, as if to prove that point, when he picks an example of robust durability he doesn't pick a Brit; he picks the man he faces today.

"Messi gets kicked by everyone and gets up and carries on. He doesn't scream and he doesn't fake injury. He is the one player you'd think would have the most right to stay down but he is the one who sets the best example," he says.

Moyes jokes that the Argentinian also never seems to miss a match and that he might be due a day off today. It is more likely to be Luis Suarez who is rested, because he is one yellow card from suspension.

At Liverpool, Suarez had a run-in of sorts with Moyes, diving at his feet to celebrate a goal against Everton, although he claimed in his book 'Crossing the Line' that Moyes took the joke well.

"I did," he says. "The game went to 2-2 and I can remember saying if we scored the late winner I would have marked up a first for managers because I would have run on to the pitch and dived in front of him. I had said that he was going down too easily, and fair play to him for his response."

Moyes has already beaten Barcelona once this season. The 1-0 win in January provoked a meltdown that threatened to ruin the Catalan club's season before they went on a run of 27 wins in 29 games.

That victory was a throwback to his days on Merseyside when he was humbling mightier opponents and he describes the process in San Sebastian as "a bit like building Everton".

Moyes' reputation at Everton for prudent signings goes before him but this time he must work without the vast knowledge of the local lower leagues that enabled him to sign the likes of Tim Cahill and Phil Jagielka.

Scout

Sociedad don't scout widely enough for his liking and he wants to add another chief scout to his team.

"People can see it as an added cost but I see it as saving money. We want Real Sociedad to be ready when the money becomes available," he says of the imminent increase in TV revenue for smaller clubs.

Moyes is proud of how he worked within a £5m budget when he joined Everton. The stories of driving to Molineux to watch Joleon Lescott 25 times before deciding to sign him, and of going to scout Vedran Corluka in Zagreb and ending up spotting a "wee boy called Modric", who he thought was fantastic but ultimately did not get, bear witness to the methodical professionalism Real Sociedad want to tap into.

Danny Ings remains a priority and, although locals are wary of the club - which until 1989 still had a Basque-only policy - losing its identity, he is confident "it will not be seen as outrageous if two or three British players arrive."

And, for all the talk of intensity, Moyes says that he will only bring players who he feels will suit La Liga's style. He picks out Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar when asked which of his former players he would happily magic into his current squad.

He has bright young bilingual assistant Erik Bretos to help him get over the language barrier. Does it not slow down the flow of the half-timing rollicking when he has to keep stopping to allow for translation?

"I can assure you a bollocking in any language sounds the same," he says. "Eric knows how to get the message across; he's not trying to note down every F-word before reading it back to them." (© Independent News Service)

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