John O’Shea said Sunderland were “distraught” after Josh King’s 88th-minute goal condemned the Black Cats to relegation, but the players have had long enough to brace themselves for this outcome. They certainly can’t say David Moyes didn’t warn them.
Within weeks of taking over at the Stadium of Light, Moyes was talking down his side’s prospects so much that it became clear very quickly that the manager was getting his excuses in early. Initially, he suggested there was no reason why this year would be different to any other recent season of struggle. Then, in January when the manager had the opportunity to recruit, he said this: “I’d be kidding you on if I said the players we’re hoping to bring in this month are going to make a big difference.”
Moyes’ doom-mongering came home to roost today, just days after he suggested these players – his players – probably couldn’t play any better than they showed in the dismal defeat at Middlesbrough. A half-empty Stadium of Light watched on in complete apathy while their team laboured before eventually succumbing to what was the inevitable.
Of course, Moyes had already got in his excuses pre-match:
“I totally understand the supporters’ frustrations though. I am agreeing with them. If it is the manager who they feel is the reason for the position, fine. I think there are some other reasons.”
Of course, there are plenty of reasons. The club is a mess from top to bottom, but Moyes is as responsible as anyone in the boardroom for the absolute dirge the Black Cats have served up this season, and he is certainly more culpable than he would have you believe.
It is hard to overstate how wretched the Wearsiders have been all season, and their supporters have showed remarkable patience – or perhaps it is just apathy – to wait until this month before calling for the manager’s head.
Make no mistake, this is Moyes’ team and it epitomises the manager’s lack of charm, with barely a redeeming feature. The Scot will point to a lack of backing in the transfer market, but a manager as good as Moyes thinks he is would show at least a smidgen of imagination, rather than simply picking off his former clubs’ cast-offs.
Moyes took over from England-bound Sam Allardyce three weeks before the start of the season and just short of six weeks prior to the closure of the transfer window. His permanent signings included Papy Djilobodji, Donald Love, Paddy McNair, Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe. Not good enough for this season and probably not up to scratch for next term either.
That Hull were below Sunderland when Marco Silva arrived in January undermines the idea relegation was inevitable. So poor by David Moyes.
— Adam Bate (@ghostgoal) April 29, 2017
Despite his side, featuring his recruits, playing with no apparent plan, shape or belief, struggling so badly, Moyes still carries the air of a man who is above all of this. The only person he has talked up all season has been himself. “Yes, 100 per cent,” was his answer when asked recently if he is a better manager now then he was during his reign at Everton. “I would say better now because of the experiences I have had.”
Those “experiences” include being woefully found out at Manchester United and leaving Real Sociedad level on points with La Liga’s bottom three in November 2015. “Considering what we did last season, looking to Europe is a very big step,” said Moyes in typical fashion the day before the start of the 2015/16 season. Within weeks of his sacking, his replacement, Eusebio Sacristan, had La Real fighting for a European spot.
While taking over from Sir Alex Ferguson, it seems the ‘cut from the same cloth’ guff went to his head and ever since, the 54-year-old has appeared woefully out of his depth. Rather than rise to the occasions, Moyes tries to drag everyone in the vicinity down with him.
His aura of self-importance has fooled some, though. The supporters eventually turned on him over recent weeks, but the board still seem to believe Moyes is the man to lead them out of a slide he perhaps didn’t start but he certainly has done nothing to arrest.
Ellis Short said Moyes was his first choice for the five managerial appointments prior to his eventual arrival at the Stadium of Light last July, but aside from not having to pay up the remaining three years on the manager’s contract, what encouragement does the owner take to suggest another change is not needed?
Moyes said after the final whistle today that questions about next season should wait “a week or two”, by which time, if he remains in charge, he will no doubt be talking up the Championship and telling everyone what a hard division it is to get out of.
Given the perilous financial situation Sunderland find themselves in, they cannot afford to throw the kind of cash Newcastle were able to chuck at their recovery, even if they get top dollar for the likes of Jordan Pickford and Jermain Defoe. The Black Cats will need a leader who can inspire and be imaginative with his resources. Moyes appears utterly incapable of either.