No Spanish fiesta for sacked Moyes
A win over Barcelona, taking the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu and two Basque derby draws will be the better memories David Moyes brings back home with him after his 363 days in San Sebastian.
Moyes was sacked yesterday by Real Sociedad's president Jokin Aperribay, with the team having taken only six points from 11 games. His attempts to give the club a little 'British bite' had ultimately failed.
In the last of those derby matches with Athletic Bilbao in September there was a glass of wine shared with opposing manager Ernesto Valverde in the small office that Moyes had done his best to convert into an improvised boot-room for post-match hospitality.
Valverde's acceptance was an all-too-rare show of managerial camaraderie and it was one of the many things Moyes missed in his 12 months away.
The door was always open but the invitation rarely taken up - just one of many cultural differences that he struggled with.
The language barrier was his most insurmountable obstacle. Players complained of, literally, having the finger pointed at them as he gave them instructions. They took offence at the body language - silly little details that crop up when two sides of a working relationship are not speaking the same language.
Moyes chose to stick with English in his press conferences and team-talks were also delivered via an interpreter, bilingual assistant Erik Bretos. He felt to attempt to speak in what would have been an extremely rudimentary Spanish would have potentially undermined his authority even more.
Had results gone well the players - many of whom can speak English - may well have embraced having a non-Spanish-speaking coach, but when they did not pick up it became a point of friction.
Moyes made light of it at first: "A bollocking in any language sounds the same," he said in an interview last May. "There's been couple of times I've raised my voice and the message got across. He doesn't have to translate every 'f word'."
However, it wore thin as time went on and he failed to make any headway with his weekly Spanish lessons. Pep Guardiola had a sabbatical to learn German, but Moyes didn't have time to do that. He arrived three months into the season last year and he spent most of his spare time watching as many matches as possible as he tried to get acquainted with a league of which he had little prior in-depth knowledge.
If the failure to communicate was one problem, the lack of quality signings was another.
Moyes was fond of saying that Real Sociedad reminded him of Everton in terms of the need to find quality on the cheap. He was proud of bringing the likes of Andy Johnson, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott to Goodison Park but he lacked the local knowledge to do the same in San Sebastian.
His failure feels like the failure of British coaching, too. With 12 of the Premier League teams currently coached by a non-British manager, Moyes' switch to La Liga always felt like a valiant crusade as much as a logical career move.
Moyes grew up admiring the spirit of adventure shown by Terry Venables and Bobby Robson. But he wasn't able to emulate them.
Venables was able to take Steve Archibald, Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes with him to the Nou Camp and Robson had the Brazilian Ronaldo in the form of his life.
In contrast, last season Moyes was making do with Alfred Finnbogason, the misfiring Icelandic striker who was sent out on loan this summer and replaced by Brazilian forward Jonathas who has fared no better.
The club believed that Moyes would bring in Premier League players, and the former Everton and Manchester United manager believed that he would be financially backed to do so, but both sides over-estimated the other.
With Premier League wages far superior to those that can be offered by a Spanish club of Real Sociedad's size, Moyes could not persuade the likes of Danny Ings and Aaron Lennon to pick Spain over Liverpool and Everton.
For the most part, sporting director Loren made the signings and even the return of midfielder Asier Illaramendi from Real Madrid failed to spark the team into life.
"I'd like an energetic style, more British," Moyes said last season but without the right new recruits he was left trying to get lung-busting runs out of Carlos Vela.
The former Arsenal forward "could be one of Europe's best players if he could get into really top shape," Moyes said tellingly last season.
Vela is only 26, but has decided to turn his back on European football and move to MLS in January. That was another body-blow - his best player was not up for the fight.
Now the 52-year-old returns to a Premier League landscape devoid of obvious openings for him. Sunderland, West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle all showed an interest in him last season but now have relative managerial stability.
Moyes turned them down convinced he could be a success in Spain; yesterday he was checking out of San Sebastian's Maria Cristina hotel just 363 days after he first checked in.
Independent News Service