Monday 23 September 2019

David Moyes fails in mission to 'do a bit of an Everton' as Sunderland go down

Relegation was confirmed for David Moyes' Sunderland on Saturday
Relegation was confirmed for David Moyes' Sunderland on Saturday

David Moyes returned to the Premier League confident he would be able to restore his reputation after Sunderland came calling.

When the Scot took up the reins last July, he saw it as an opportunity to repair the damage wrought by a brief but bruising spell as Manchester United boss, during which he felt he was treated unfairly, and an ill-fated sortie into Spanish football with Real Sociedad.

Having lasted only 10 months at Old Trafford, where Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes proved simply to sizeable to fill, and barely a year in the Basque country, Moyes walked into the Stadium of Light intending to do for Sunderland what he had done for Everton during an 11-year tenure which saw the club transformed from perennial strugglers to top-eight regulars.

The Black Cats were still patting themselves on the back after a fourth successive escape from relegation when his predecessor Sam Allardyce was handed - albeit spectacularly briefly - his dream job as England manager having laid the foundations if not for lasting success on Wearside, then for a significantly brighter future.

Owner Ellis Short thought he had found a like-for-like replacement in Moyes, a man who he revealed had been his "number one managerial target for the last five appointments".

Short said: "The fact that David has committed to a four-year deal is a clear demonstration of his belief in what he can achieve here.

"It is our aim to become a better, stronger and more stable football club and, with a manager of David's calibre and experience at the helm, we have a fantastic opportunity to begin looking upwards, rather than downwards every season."

Moyes' remit was relatively modest. His mission was to bring an end to the club's seemingly constant flirtation with the drop and establish them in safer waters, and it was one which was always going to take time.

The Scot said as he took charge: "This has got to be a building job. Hopefully I'm here for four years and I'll try to bring a level of stability to the club.

"This reminds me a little bit of Everton when I took over. Everton had been in the bottom six, I think, four out of the five years before I came in.

"In my last eight years I never finished outside the top eight. Hopefully we can do a bit of an Everton."

What they have in fact done is a bit of a Sunderland.

There were those who believed Moyes was out of his depth at Manchester United, where the support he expected in the transfer market failed to materialise as Champions League and even Europa League football ultimately eluded him.

Life was little easier for him either in Spain, and it seemed a good fit when he accepted Short's offer of employment and the reduced expectation it carried with it.

But as the summer transfer window closed without the arrivals for which he had hoped, he realised very quickly that he might have his work cut out.

Speaking after a 2-1 home defeat by promoted derby rivals Middlesbrough in just the second game of the league campaign, Moyes offered a bleak assessment of what was likely to lie ahead.

Asked what he could say to fans fearing yet another survival scrap, he said: "I think it will be. I don't think you can hide the facts. That will be the case, yes. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change. It can't dramatically change - it can't."

Slammed as defeatist in some quarters, Moyes' comments have proved to be brutally accurate with the club's parlous financial situation, details of which were made public in December, having done little to lift the pall hanging over it.

The Scot, who has freely admitted he might have had second thoughts had he known the full extent of the financial situation, has tried to make the best of a bad job, although has struggled to hide his emotions - at one point suggesting he might "slap" a female reporter.

But for all the efforts of Moyes and his staff, performances have dwindled rather than improved and, despite his protestations, relegation became inevitable long before it was confirmed.

PA Media

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