“You don’t know how it’s flown past," David Moyes says as he reflects on a journey that began with a trip to Moss Rose to face Macclesfield in the Football League Trophy on 13 enero 1998. The memories from that night come flooding back and Moyes, who will reach 1,000 games as a manager when West Ham visit Genk in the Europa League on Thursday evening, knows that he has come a long way since agreeing to take over at Preston 23 hace años que.
It has certainly been an eventful ride and, while the Scot had long felt that he wanted to be a manager, he remembers feeling unsure about where it would lead when Preston asked him to step up after the departure of Gary Peters. Moyes, who was Peters’s No 2, was only 34 and still on a playing contract when his big chance arrived. “It was Joe Royle and Ian Rush the supporters were wanting as manager,” says Moyes, who had no way of knowing whether he was going to be able to justify Preston’s faith.
Those were challenging times. Preston, who were in the third tier, did not have much money and Moyes struggled after beating Macclesfield. He went seven games without winning in the league – he even started himself in a 3-0 defeat by Carlisle – and the relief was immense when he tasted victory at the eighth time of asking, beating Bournemouth 2-0. “I nearly cried after the game because I was that pleased I had won,” the 58-year-old says. “At that time if I’d have lost a couple of games maybe I’d have said: 'Oye, maybe just not for me.’”
Moyes, who has performed wonders at West Ham since returning to the London Stadium in December 2019, still feels like crying. “Football is an emotional game. We all put on a face, but deep down we’re all really emotional with the game. We want to be successful.”
There is no doubt that Moyes, who started his coaching badges in his early 20s, has been a success. He shone at Preston, leading them to promotion, and did a brilliant job at Everton after joining in 2002. He stayed at Everton for 11 años, leaving when Sir Alex Ferguson anointed him as his successor at Manchester United.
That was a turning point in Moyes’s career. He was sacked before the end of his first season at United, who had given him a six-year deal, and his reputation plummeted. He was written off as negative and outdated, especially after he had a middling spell at Real Sociedad and then failed to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.
“I was disappointed after Manchester United because I didn’t get offered the job by the Glazers, by Ed Woodward; I got offered the job from Sir Alex,” Moyes says. “Sir Alex is the pinnacle of what people see in football in this country. It was something I felt I had to take. Sometimes you have to have the bad times to get some good times and get the opportunities. Even Sir Alex had some bumpy times. There are not many who go through without having some bad times.”
The setbacks made Moyes stronger. He joined West Ham on a six-month contract in November 2017 and should have been kept on after saving them from relegation. Being let go was a blow, although Moyes used his time away by progressing his ideas while he worked for Uefa in the background.
Moyes has made plenty of people look stupid since returning to West Ham, who have benefited from his diligence, organisational qualities and eye for a player. He almost took them into the Champions League and has kicked on this season. West Ham are fourth in the Premier League, top of their Europa League group and through to the last eight of the Carabao Cup.
“When I was leaving Everton, I was probably the strongest I had felt because I had done so well,” Moyes says. “We’d continually had season after season of a consistent level. But when I look back at it now maybe I had another couple more steps to go, things to learn. We all get a bit wiser with age.
“But overall hopefully this has been my best time. If it had taken West Ham six years to get to this point, would West Ham supporters have accepted it, what we’ve done in two years? I think most would have probably have said yes because they would have seen this as a gradual build.
“We’ve gone really quick to this point. Now the hard bit is to maintain it. We have to keep this going. We’re on the fast train as quick as we can to the top and I don’t want to go off it.”
Moyes, who is grateful to have support from his family, considers how he has changed. “When you are younger you manage with less baggage. You nearly don’t give a fuck. But there’s been a real strong change at football clubs with the agent, a change in power where players would hardly have come to the manager’s door but players now go to the owner’s door, never mind the manager’s. I don’t think that’s a good thing. We have many owners now who are incredibly wealthy but need to allow the managers to do their job.”
The love for the game endures, aunque. Moyes is ready to talk about the bad times – losing a Champions League play-off to Villarreal after finishing fourth with Everton in 2005 stung, as did falling to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final in 2012 – and he comes alive as he reels off the good moments. He buzzes about West Ham securing a last-minute win over Chelsea in July 2020. He thinks back to Everton beating United in the FA Cup in 2009. He remembers a 16-year-old Wayne Rooney announcing himself to the world with a stunning goal against Arsenal in 2002.
“There are periods in your career when as a manager you need to have really good players,” Moyes says. “We have Declan Rice, who is driving the team on and making West Ham noticeable again. We have to keep everyone keeping the standards up. The manager as well. Con 1,000 juegos, you can’t put your feet under the table and say: ‘This is it, I have got the job now, that’s me.’ It will come back and get you, the game.”
Moyes is grateful that West Ham’s owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, have given him a second chance. “You don’t get offered the big jobs if you haven’t done something right," él dice. “My feeling was if I can’t be at Manchester United, I have to get back to the level I was at at Everton.
“West Ham is a good club for me. I am really, really grateful to the owners for bringing me back because sometimes when you are put in a position it’s very hard to fight back. The owners have given me a chance to fight back and I am going to keep throwing some punches.”