What did David Moyes ever do for us?

It’s coming up to six years since David Moyes first crossed our paths. Love or loath him, it’s been the most divisive, controversial managerial appointment for many a decade.

If we can put aside, for just a moment please, the continual debate about style, something I doubt bothers anyone looking into our club from the outside. ‘What has he done for us?’ is still a valid question.

The debate and question has overtones of the Monty Python scene from Life of Brian when John Cleese utters the line, "what have the Romans ever done for us?" Somebody mentioned roads, sanitation and wine, and that ended the discussion.

Moyes’ tenure gets so much criticism; you would think we have been a disaster area ever since he set foot in the place.

But are we a significantly better run club than before Moyes’ first appointment in November 2017? If you marry together Moyes’ two spells as manager with us, only Harry Redknapp has had a longer spell in control since the days of John Lyall.

Moyes joined us for a matter of six months in November 2017, avoiding relegation in that spell and then returned in December 2019 until the present day. There was an unfortunate experiment with a ‘name’ manager in Manuel Pellegrini, which didn’t end well after a decent start.

I was never a fan of that appointment. Manchester City had given him the respect of a decent departure, the 'Charming Man' as City fans called him, was about to be jettisoned to allow the start of the Pep Guardiola revolution. Nothing more to add really.

Pellegrini popped off to China for some enhancement of his pension and, for some obscure reason, we went after him, threw money at him and he was back with his mate as Director of Football with free reign over transfers and him and his mate’s sons on the scouting payroll. What were we thinking? Then we went back for old reliable, Mr. Sensible.

Maybe it’s best to start with the months before Slaven Bilic was sacked; two matches in 2017 are worth a look. Those team sheets have been on social media recently. The first was May that year, the last home game of the season. The team, battered 4-0 by Liverpool was: Adrian, Fonte, Reid, Collins, Byram, Fernandes, Nordtveit, Cresswell, Lanzini, Ayew, Calleri.

A week later, the final game of the campaign, we won 2-1 at Burnley and Declan Rice - destined to play a massive part in the next six years - made his debut. We finished 11th.

Fast forward to November and another mauling by Liverpool, this time 4-1. The team that day was: Harte, Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna, Fernandes, Noble, Obiang, Cresswell, Ayew, Lanzini, Chicharito. It was Bilic’s last game before being axed.

This is not intending the be a pop at Slav, there were many reasons why his tenure here fell apart. There were great days with Dimitri Payet, but Slav was soon history. But my point is - you knew I’d get there eventually - is how many players from those two line-ups would get into the current West Ham side.

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My guess would be Manuel Lanzini at his best, Angelo Ogbonna and maybe Winston Reid. I’m sure you all may have different views, but the general point is that the team we have now is miles better than six years ago.

Aaron Cresswell has been ousted now by Emerson, and with the best will in the world, I doubt Mark Noble feels he would get into a side with Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse, Lucas Paqueta and the soon to be Mohammed Kudus around.

Now where am I going with this? And it’s not intended to be a wholesale defence of Moyes’ management. But since he arrived we have signed 21 players for, give or take some add ons, for cash, around £450m. Outgoing are 19 for about £250m. That’s a difference of £200m, and baring in mind the board’s regular budget of about £30m per season - not this one, of course - that’s pretty much well within the overall budget.

Now Moyes could already have been toast by now, such has been the hue and cry from sections of our support aided and abetted by a variety of social media and fans websites. You do have to wonder sometimes who it is inside our club at a senior level it seems, who has fed and fuelled the relentless campaign against Moyes. Like Jack Charlton, I have a little black book of candidates. One day I’ll get there.

Pellegrini was around for 19 months in the middle of the Moyes era and since he left and the Scot returned, life has changed around our club. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, there have been so many crunch points over transfers, appointments and the way we play. But my view, for what it is worth is that any business flourishes with continuity and stability.

In those campaigns since Moyes returned in December 2019, we’ve secured three successive seasons in Europe, a European trophy, sixth and seventh finishes, and the best years of the lives of the under 45s in our fan base. It’s also our best years since the Premier League started.

Outside of east London, the football community believe Moyes has reinvigorated himself. The problematic years at Manchester United, Sunderland and Real Sociadad had wiped away the memory of those great Everton days.

Things may well change, and quickly. We have Manchester City, Liverpool and Newcastle soon, and this wonderous position of fourth could be history, as could Moyes many still hope.

Let’s be honest - in recent years, David Sullivan has tried and failed to land Jurgen Klopp, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino, but he’s been left with Moyes.

Now we hear Lady B on the radio calling Moyes a ‘joy’ to work with, and that they would never sign a player he did not want. That took me a while to get over. Danny Ings, Gianluca Scamacca and Said Benrahma come to mind. It’s all Moyes’ fault now, it seems.

And all this comes after weeks of being told by board mouthpieces that Sullivan has taken back control and Tim Steidten was calling the shots.

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Scamacca has been the biggest disaster of Moyes’ reign, a player he tried to block at the final moments. Maybe he had googled ‘Scamacca father’ and got serious cold feet. Anyway, he was used in 25 of our first 30 games, a decent run to make an impression.

But as Michail Antonio said he wouldn’t run, he would not run the channels, he would not work off the ball. No wonder there was dressing room unrest. And no, I have little sympathy. If you are paid upwards of £80,000 a week you should be capable of adapting, playing a different system than what you are used to. No club is going to change their system to accommodate one new player.

Moyes has won 110 matches in two spells at West Ham that sees him with over 200 games in control. He’s got every coaching qualification possible from the Scottish and English FA and worked for UEFA analysing matches when he was between jobs. That’s when he spotted Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, following Sparta Prague in the Champions League. He’s got 1,101 games under his managerial belt, so let’s stuff the nonsense that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The key, I suppose, is do we want his level of expertise? There was a poll recently which asked do we want entertaining football or winning football. The result was two to win in favour of winning football. A question there for the board to answer and are they prepared to axe someone they know does the job they want and launch into a Graham Potter rethink? He’s turned down Lyon, and is sitting and waiting.

And you may have noticed Moyes has quietly enhanced his position. He’s appointed John Heitinga as first team coach, a Dutch international who played 115 matches for Everton under Moyes in a five year spell. There’s also his time at Ajax learning their coaching ethos plus 87 caps and a World Cup runners-up medal. That’s serious experience.

And there’s more, as they say. Mark Robson, who could have joined Wolves, has now moved from the Under 21s to first team assistant coach. Henry Newson has moved from opponents analysis to first team assistant coach. Steve Potts is now Under 21 boss with academy upgrades for Lauris Goggin and Gerald Penderville. These are all Moyes appointments, and it’s good management to reward staff with internal promotions. They are his men now.

So you have a manager who is considered a serious success in recent years, to have re-invented himself, by everyone outside of our fan base, it seems.

Make your mind up guys, warts and all, what do you want for our club? Moyes is, at the least, a safe pair of hands and yes, he makes mistakes. Good grief, we all do. But his main attribute, for me, is that he has a knack of fostering team spirit and togetherness.

In recent weeks Jarrod Bowen, Kouma and Ward-Prowse made comments to underline this. We had it in the pandemic season, we had it on route to Prague, now those self same claims are starting to surface again.

Like everyone I want to believe the good stuff, jettison the rubbish and hope for the best. What we have now is as good as many can remember for over 30 years. For the rest, be careful what you wish for.

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