After David Moyes’ appointment at West Ham and Sam Allardyce’s declarations of interest in taking the reins at Everton, a certain sentiment has filled the internet so prolifically that Clinton’s are considering marketing it as an annual holiday. From now on, the first Monday of every November will be ‘Know When To Quit Day’, the ideal occasion to buy a card and stuffed bear for your despised boss, perfectionist colleague, or badgering child.
So what do we expect the likes of Moyes and Allardyce to do? There is no doubt that someone with the richness and longevity of their experience could have settled for the kind of advisory or assistant role you see popping up now and then: Glenn Roeder at Stevenage, Alan Curbishley at Fulham, Trevor Francis at Stoke.
But there are two issues with going that route. One is that in doing so, you are effectively taking yourself out of the conversation for any and all managerial vacancies that might come up in future.
Becoming a football manager, rather than staying below the parapet in the ranks of the coaching team, is an intrinsically hubristic act to begin with. No man or woman who is attracted to the position in the first place does so without some measure of ego, confidence and dreams of glory. It’s not surprising that for those people, enough is never enough. In those circumstances, a job is not just a job; it’s an opportunity to right past wrongs.
When I spoke to former Liverpool manager Roy Evans earlier this year, he expressed sadness at having gone that way himself with spells at Fulham alongside Karlheinz Riedle, advising Neil Ruddock at Swindon, and then under Brian Carey and John Toshack at Wrexham and Wales respectively.
In an interview tinged with regret, Evans said: “Stupidly, I suppose, being the way I am, I started helping people out at Swindon and Wrexham but sometimes you have to think about yourself and I probably didn’t do that…maybe I’m not the kind of person who pushes himself to the front of the queue, but that’s the way football is and the way life is sometimes.”
More pressingly for Moyes, it is easy to see how for some managers, taking that step would feel like accepting defeat and fading into obsolescence – a truly terrifying prospect. As anyone who lived in industrial towns during and immediately after the worst ravages of Thatcherism can tell you, there is almost no worse emotion than feeling like the world has moved on without you.
At 54 years old, and barely four-and-a-half years on from being appointed to one of the biggest jobs in world football, it is easy to see why Moyes is nothing like ready to give it up yet. It is equally easy to see how Moyes could have used his job interview at West Ham to make that point, before going on to convince them that succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson was an impossible job and then pointing at managerless Sunderland’s current position at the foot of the Championship as evidence of a club with much deeper problems than the identity of the man in the dugout.
That is not to say I agree with Davids Gold and Sullivan that Moyes is the right person for the job; for instance, I constantly have to remind myself that Moyes, remarkably, had the entire season with Sunderland and didn’t merely board an already-sinking ship midway through the campaign.
But sometimes, there is nothing more dangerous than a man with something to prove. West Ham’s gamble is that the danger is outward-facing, rather than the cause of a catastrophic implosion.