Exclusive to David Moyes: I understand the critics, but West Ham are back on the map

Farewell to Hammers: David Moyes’ second spell in charge of West Ham concludes this weekend (Victoria Jones/PA Wire)

It’s a few days before the end of another Premier League season and David Moyes is considering his 231st and final game of his second spell as West Ham manager, away to presumptive champions Manchester City.

The only certainty at the Etihad Stadium this Sunday is that Moyes’ team won’t see too much of the ball, something that worries him far less than some of the club’s fans.

There is a lot of emphasis in coaching in 2024 on style, but Moyes is more of a man of substance, both in his approach to football and life in general.

After the final home game of the season last weekend, 50,000 West Ham fans stayed at the London Stadium to cheer on his achievements in four and a half years at their club, a gesture that touched him deeply.

Earlier he resisted the temptation to acknowledge the fans who chanted his name during the match, out of respect for Rob Edwards, whose Luton team were all but condemned to relegation that day.

“I’ve been in that position,” he said, “and I know what it feels like. It’s terrible.”

That is substance. Moyes didn’t want a big farewell and this weekend he will be grateful knowing the focus will be firmly on City.

But some time later, when he has the time and inclination, he admits he will feel a mixture of pride and sadness that his East End adventure has come to an end.

Proud to have guided West Ham out of relegation, then to sixth and seventh places in the Premier League, to three years of European football, topped off by winning last season’s Europa Conference League title, their first trophy in 43 years.

“Both parties were ready to make the change…I thought it was time to step aside”

David Moyes on leaving West Ham

“I think my biggest success was keeping West Ham in the Premier League,” says Moyes. “I had a bit more time during my first spell at the club, but the second spell was definitely more difficult.”

However, the special moment of his long career as a manager was undoubtedly the final victory of the Europa Conference League in Prague last June.

“I’m quite proud of my career as a manager because you don’t survive in the Premier League unless you have a certain level of success,” he says.

“If I had never won a trophy in those days I would still have been proud, but lifting that cup meant something more visible and tangible and it was the first time a British manager had won a European club title since Sir Alex Ferguson in 2008.”

The criticism of his team’s style, some of which he accepts but much of which he does not, soon found a strident voice.

“One of the most disappointing things recently was after our game against Crystal Palace,” he admits. “We had lost badly but afterwards I decided to go out and sign a few autographs – I thought it was the right thing to do.

“I was standing there and a West Ham supporter came up to me and said to me: ‘That trophy meant nothing.’ We only beat two teams, Alkmaar and Fiorentina.’

“I told him he was entitled to his opinion, but that really bothered me. Aston Villa would have done everything they could to reach this season’s final, but they went out to Olympiakos, who we had placed top of our Europa League group.

Lifelong memories: Moyes delivered West Ham's first major trophy in 43 years last season (PA)Lifelong memories: Moyes delivered West Ham's first major trophy in 43 years last season (PA)

Lifelong memories: Moyes delivered West Ham’s first major trophy in 43 years last season (PA)

“We played in Europe for three years in two competitions and won our group all three times. We played from Thursday to Sunday, which, believe me, is a real challenge.

“That fan who thought it was ‘nothing’ has his opinion, but I can tell him that I have had supporters from many other clubs tell me that they have done a great job for West Ham.

“I had so many messages afterwards, including one from Sir Alex and a lovely one from Jurgen Klopp. But just as important were some of the people I played football with when we were 14.”

A mid-table finish in the Premier League and a place in the Europa League quarter-finals this season are far from unsatisfactory and it is perhaps unusual for a club with such progress to decide to make a change.

However, the West Ham board want a different model for the future, which is their right, and Moyes is optimistic about that.

“I think both parties were probably ready to make the change,” he says. “I thought it was time to step aside. Look, there was quite a bit of criticism, some of it true after some of our results, but a lot more praise for what we achieved.

“I understand where the fans are coming from when they question the playing style. I have been criticized, but I have always wanted to play good football. I just don’t see that it’s a good idea to keep giving away the ball in your box.

“I like good football, but I don’t take big risks and I don’t think I ever will. There is no shame in trying to make your teams strong defensively.

“I played at Everton for 11 years and for the first five years it was one good year, followed by an indifferent year and so on. Then stability came and we felt like we could finish in the top 10 every year, so how high can we go? At West Ham we haven’t quite reached that level yet.

“There were times at Everton when I thought about leaving, but it was always the wrong thought because the following year it was better.

“It’s a little different now. I think West Ham wanted the change as much as I did. There has been a lot of outside noise and perhaps they found some of it hard to ignore.

“I think when I walk away after Sunday I will feel some pride. I think West Ham are back on the map. I must be sad because I feel like we’ve done some of the construction work. The foundation has been laid, but much remains to be done.

“Now, though, I’m ready for a good break, even though I’ll be watching a lot of football.

“I’m working at the European Championships, I want to experience some of the Copa America and I’d like to do something I’ve never done before and watch some matches in Argentina and Brazil.

“Whether the pull of management here will be too strong is possible, but I want to be useful somewhere.

“Life goes on and I move on, just like West Ham. It was great to see young George Earthy come in and do so well for us against Luton last weekend.

“I was so happy for him. After the final in Prague, Thomas Soucek took us out. We were walking down the street and suddenly George came the other way, in his West Ham shirt.

Successor: Julen Lopetegui expected to be named as Moyes' replacement (John Walton/PA Wire)Successor: Julen Lopetegui expected to be named as Moyes' replacement (John Walton/PA Wire)

Successor: Julen Lopetegui expected to be named as Moyes’ replacement (John Walton/PA Wire)

“It was great to see him, a player for the club, but on that night a supporter like the many thousands of others. That was perhaps the highlight of an unforgettable evening for me.”

Julen Lopetegui is expected to become West Ham’s new manager in the coming days, while Moyes, who was asked by the League Managers Association (LMA) to liaise with the Spanish manager when he first arrived in England, resumes his search to meadows.

The offers, from clubs and countries, are already pouring into Moyes’ inbox.

But just in case he fancies something completely different after seeing him dance to The Proclaimers during the post-match festivities in Prague, there’s always Strictly.

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