Monday 19 August 2019

Comment: Moyes playing a dangerous game with his tough talking

West Ham United's new manager David Moyes. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
West Ham United's new manager David Moyes. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

It wasn't quite on the scale of newly-appointed Leeds manager Brian Clough telling a bunch of hardened, league-winning club stalwarts to take all of the medals they had won and chuck them in the bin, but David Moyes' press conference on Friday before his opening game as West Ham manager was certainly on that spectrum.

When asked how they are going to treat an underperforming star, most managers would have the nous to publicly praise the player even if, in private, they're demanding more. It's the sort of thing you learn after the first time you get sacked on the computer game Football Manager.

"I can't comment on the earlier games, I can only go on what people tell me and they say he hasn't come up to the standard he set while he was at Stoke," said Moyes of Marko Arnautovic.

Even if basing an opinion on hearsay isn't a rock-solid foundation to build a working relationship, it wasn't too bad a statement in isolation.

"But he also has to be a team player. And I could say the clips I have seen of it, he's not looked a team player. But he wouldn't be the only one I'd say that about in the games that I've watched West Ham this season," Moyes went on.

"They've got to be the ones who take responsibilities for what their actions are now. They can't always be saying 'it's the manager doesn't do this and the manager doesn't do that', Let's see what you can do yourself."

Overall, Moyes might have a point about the application of certain players, but if there's one person in the West Ham dressing room who doesn't want opinions to be formed about him based on "what people say" and "clips" of recent form, it's David Moyes.

Yesterday, West Ham couldn't even muster the dead-cat bounce which often accompanies a new manager in losing 2-0 to Watford, with Arnautovic leaving the pitch in apparent agony after suffering an arm injury.

Moyes could have said they were unlucky, or that Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was Man of the Match. Instead he went for the players again.

"I always thought this was a big job. Some big players with big reputations disappointed me a lot," he said. "I thought they would show me more. They need to show me why they have got that reputation."

If they have chosen to listen, the players may quickly be realising why Moyes has the reputation that he does, which won't be conducive to helping with a relegation battle.

As well as speaking about himself in the third person at his unveiling, Moyes was also keen not to talk about the past. Which he did while taking about the past.

"I could go back again and talk about the old days," said Moyes, also on Friday. "Winning Manager of the Year three times in a row, I could talk about getting the biggest job in the world, I could talk about going and being one of the only British managers who have ever had a job in Spain. I could do all that, but now it's time to stop talking about that and start talking about what is coming next."

Moyes also argued that at United "probably my record would have stood with most in one year", while at Real Sociedad he "joined a club who were avoiding relegation and we keep them up, and we get to the following year and they think they are just below where they should be".

Alternatively, he took the Premier League champions from top to sixth, then in Spain took over a team in 15th in November, helped them finish 12th and was sacked when they were 16th after a year in charge. Sociedad finished that season in ninth and were sixth last season, meaning 16th is a fair bit below "where they should be".

Moyes, theoretically, still has a year-and-a-half left to run on the contract he signed at Manchester United and has gone from being touted among title-winning coaches to the Sam Allardyce/Tony Pulis bracket of being a safe pair of hands.

And given the disaster that was Sunderland last season, he still has a long way to go on the latter objective.

In every interview Moyes has conducted in his fortnight, he has pushed for hard work and referenced running at the levels of Preston or Everton, where players were "probably crying at the work".

All of which is fine, except that the West Ham board have only given him a six-month contract, which gives him all the authority of a substitute teacher doling out punishment to an unruly classroom.

Even primary school children recognise that knowing they will be around longer than the teacher fatally undermines the person in charge.

Arnautovic, having been signed for a baffling £24.5m, can let Moyes roar away and then go home and smile at the five-year, £130,000-a-week contract West Ham gave him last summer as a 28-year-old. If someone made such a woeful business decision on The Apprentice, Karren Brady would have something to say about it.

New managers always speak about working harder, but if Moyes' plans really are to increase the training volume to the point when players cry, he might not have the ones he wants available after a few weeks.

Throwing

That's because between yesterday's game and the January 2 meeting with West Brom, West Ham play 12 league games in 44 days and throwing in hard running in training on top of that might not be the best way of keeping someone like Andy Carroll off the treatment table.

Factored into Moyes' dogs-of-war mentality is Alan Irvine, a highly regarded coach from the old school (with Moyes it seems that is the one and only school) and Stuart Pearce for the British bulldog values that earned him his 'Psycho' nickname.

By smashing an opponent across the face after six seconds, Carroll at least made his mark yesterday, but being taken off before being sent off isn't quite the fight West Ham need.

On Friday they face Leicester at home in a stadium that has helped bring fans to the point of open revolt.

"I thought they were supportive of me and I'm thankful for that," was Moyes's assessment of the travelling supporters at Vicarage Road. It won't take long for that to change.

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