We’re all team David Moyes as West Ham’s poor season could become a great one

Ian King
West Ham United manager David Moyes

West Ham United manager David Moyes hasn’t had a career festooned with silverware, but the Europa Conference League offers a chance to rectify that.


It’s been a curious season for West Ham United. In a campaign riddled with inconsistency they’ve been one of the most inconsistent of all, flirting with the relegation places before finding just enough form to lift themselves to safety with a handful of matches left to play. It’s been pretty poor in the Premier League after two top-seven finishes, with lower mid-table the best this season can offer.

But consolations can come from surprising places, and West Ham’s disappointing Premier League season could yet come with a silver lining. On Thursday evening they play AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final. Whisper it, but West Ham United could yet end this season with their first piece of major silverware in 42 years, since the 1981 League Cup.

West Ham United are not alone in going into this match seeking to end a trophy drought. It’s the same for their manager. David Moyes has been in management now for a quarter of a century, and although he has earned a reputation as a decent manager, this time has hardly been festooned with silverware. One Football League Second Division – that’s League One, in new money – title in 2000 with Preston North End, a Community Shield in his very first match as the successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and… that’s it. He hasn’t even won the Premier League’s Manager of the Month trinket since March 2013.

It could be tempting to segue from this sort of record into something dismissive about his ‘failure’, but the truth of the matter is that such is the polarisation of the game in this country in the 21st century that winning much silverware is practically impossible unless you’re a closely diminishing number of clubs. Moyes had the opportunity to manage one of those for just less than a year, but Manchester United were a club beginning a period of transition which never seems to quite have ended. The season he had at Old Trafford didn’t work out, but any manager have fared better after the loss of such an influential figure as Ferguson?

He tops this list of Premier League managers doomed to fail.

The likelihood of winning major trophies at his other clubs was always slight, because that’s the way it is for the overwhelming majority of managers. In 11 years at Everton he managed one appearance in the FA Cup final. At West Ham, he still hasn’t even quite got that far, with his team falling in the semi-finals of the Europa League to Eintracht Frankfurt being about as close as he’s got. But should we be that surprised? After all, West Ham United haven’t won a major trophy in 42 years. Everton haven’t in 28.

But we all know already that the dice have been loaded against the majority of football clubs (and therefore their managers) for years. And Moyes’ record is pretty good. In 11 years at Everton, the club only finished under halfway in the Premier League twice. Manchester United and Sunderland were both challenges with issues far greater than anything that the manager would or wouldn’t be able to fix. The successor to Sir Alex Ferguson was always likely to be on a hiding to nothing.

The only relegation of his career came at Sunderland, but there were clearly ongoing issues within that club which predated his arrival and continued for years after he left. Sunderland’s basketcasery took them to League One. His time at Real Sociedad was uninspiring, but it would be a stretch to call it disastrous.

The same could be said for this season at West Ham United. It’s definitely been a more challenging one that the last couple, but West Ham have only been in the relegation places for seven weeks throughout the whole season, and five of those came right at the start when taking just four points from their first seven games left them in the bottom three.

But things have improved since then, and although this season has been inconsistent – they’ve only managed two straight league wins once – beating Manchester United in their last Premier League match before their European semi-final has at least guaranteed their safety for this season.

The allure of a European trophy should be obvious. West Ham have been successful in Europe, but it was a long time ago. In 1965 they became only the second English club to win a European trophy when they beat 1860 Munich at Wembley. The Europa Conference League was only introduced two years ago, but it has really taken a place in the schedule which should have been filled years ago, after the Cup Winners Cup was abolished in 1999.

West Ham supporters really came together last season over their Europa League run. Perhaps they can do the same now that we’re undoubtedly at the business end of the Europa Conference League.

While there’s been entirely predictable #MoyesOut chicanery this season, the truth of the matter is that he has delivered since returning to the club in 2018, with two consecutive top-seven finishes in the Premier League and two European semi-finals, one of which could yet become a European final or even a European trophy. And to those who consider the Europa Conference League a ‘tin pot’ trophy barely worthy of their consideration, well, it’s a trophy. And that, surely, is the whole point of football, isn’t it?

We’re all increasingly discouraged from living in the moment. Where will we be next season? What about that next transfer window? Who will swoop for all our best players? The lingua franca of modern football at most clubs has become this low-level fatalism that is encouraged to give constant thought to how bad things might get in the future over how good things might in the present. This season hasn’t been as easy on the eye for West Ham supporters as the past two had been.

European football brought the club together last season. And it could help this season finish on a high that David Moyes deserves, not only for his time at West Ham United, but also over the course of a lengthy career which deserves more recognition than it often seems to get.