What’s with the noise around Moyes?

A fair few Hammers fans will have walked away from the London Stadium on Monday night a little conflicted. An impressive, and dare I say entertaining 4-2 victory over bogey side Brentford, was exactly the performance required by the Hammers following a torrid start to 2024.

Speculation surrounding the future of manager David Moyes had reached boiling point during the week. Recent dismal performances against the likes of Bristol City, Bournemouth and Sheffield United compounded by the 6-0 drubbing against Arsenal has seen a dramatic rise in the number of fans calling for Moyes’ head.

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The Scot further incensed supporters ahead of the Brentford game with his own take on his future at the club. "There's a contract there for me and I'm the one deciding," he said. "I want to wait until the end of the season."

Intentional or not, his comments further stirred a steaming pot already at boiling point.

There surely will have been some who took to their seats on Monday night armed with ‘Moyes OUT!’ banners, ready to ring out a chorus of boos just as soon as the chips were down. But a whirlwind opening 10 minutes saw Bowen’s quickfire brace, with the return of Lucas Paquetá adding that touch of class back into our play that’s been missing since the turn of the year.

Bowen eventually headed home his hat-trick before Emerson’s rocket nearly took the roof off the net and possibly the London Stadium. As the referee blew for full time, the performance had us fans scratching our heads. "What were we moaning about again?"

Into the final third of the season, through to the knockout stages of Europe, idly sitting just above mid-table without that familiar fear of relegation… You could be forgiven for asking: "What’s with the noise around Moyes?"

Despite Monday’s victory, bookmakers still have the Scot favourite for the chop and it seems it’s just a matter of when, not if.

Firstly, let me be clear. I’m no Moyes fan club member and this is no ‘Moyes IN’ love letter. Far from it. His dour personality matches his footballing philosophy… Negative. Must not lose. Must not concede. Must defend what we have. To be fair, it’s a similar outlook shared by the great Jose Mourinho. But ‘special’, Moyes is not.

Who can forget his ‘Jose-esque’, "That’s what I do. I win" comment back in 2019. Five years later and Moyes is still at it.

"I think if they’re honest, they’d have to say that it’s as good a time as there’s been at this club regarding winning a trophy (Europa Conference League) and league positions. Maybe they’ve had managers who excite them more. But the one who’s sitting here wins more."

The manager’s attempts to rally the fans might have had more impact had his comments not come directly after a dismal 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest. Some saw his outburst as a sly dig at club legends; John Lyall, Ron Greenwood and co. Others just winced at the deluded and mistimed nature of his words. Either way, this felt like Moyes’ ‘ear-cupping’ moment.

Much like Moyes, Sam Allardyce was dogged by criticism of his playing style throughout his West Ham managerial reign. Accused of not playing ‘the West Ham way’, Big Sam irked fans by mockingly asking supporters if the West Ham way meant losing every week. What he meant was, he couldn’t deliver both attractive AND effective football. We, the fans, had to choose.

Then, came the moment.

Following victory over Hull back in 2014, a section of the home support, unhappy with the brand of football being played, let their feelings be known to the manager. As an act of defiance at the boo-boys, Big Sam fronted up to fans, cupping his ear in disbelief. A defining image. A statement made. Allardyce left the club the following year.

While Moyes has no such defining imagery yet, his words are painting a very similar picture. So the question; Was Big Sam right? Is David Moyes correct? Are West Ham fans deluded? Do we demand too much? Are expectations too high?

Of course, fans of other clubs are enjoying our internal implosion. And, why not? We would too if the boot was on the other foot. And as always, the pundits are out in force to criticise Hammers fans who demand to see a more positive outlook and playing style from our manager.

The normally likeable Ben Foster told talkSPORT recently that West Ham fans needed a ‘reality check’. Simon Jordan echoed these sentiments. Steve Bruce took time away from his managerial sun lounger to warn us to ‘be careful what you wish for’ referring to calls for Moyes to be sacked. Of course, it surprises nobody to see one footballing relic offering his backing to another.

All of this banter from opposition fans and pundits is just that… banter, noise. After all, they are not the ones that paid to watch us play four central midfielders at home to Bournemouth. They didn’t endure the long schlep to the stadium during a train strike only to see our versatile right back starting as a left winger.

They probably also have forgotten that, despite us winning the Europa Conference League last season, we struggled domestically finishing 14th, just six points above relegated Leicester.

However, possibly the narrative from the media that irks the most is that West Ham fans should be happy with what we have. That we’re a middling team and that we should be grateful for our lot in life.

It’s a bizarre philosophy which goes against the very fabric of sport. Don’t dream. Don’t demand. Don’t aspire. We’re told that we can’t have good football and still win games. It’s one or the other. We’re mocked because we want to go into each game believing we can win it, as opposed to trying not to lose it.

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You only need to look at Spurs to realise that you can have entertaining football and be competitive. Have they won a trophy? No. Are they going to win anything this season? No. But speak to any Spurs fan and they’ll happily tell you just how more enjoyable it is now they no longer endure the pragmatic styles of Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Elsewhere. Brighton, Villa, even Wolves are examples of teams that manage to combine attractive football with effective results. Proof, it’s possible to be competitive AND play positive football.

So where’s the snag?

Well… Spurs, Villa, Brighton and Wolves. They’ve all won nothing. For all their good, attacking, free-flowing football, they’ve won zip. Whereas West Ham have. We dusted off our trophy cabinet and added real silverware. Our Europa Conference League triumph last season was possibly the single, greatest day in our club’s recent history.

Putting aside the absolute absurdity of the competition itself, it was a tournament to be won. There was a trophy to be lifted and we did just that. And in some style too. Undefeated across the entire competition. Who cares if you finish 14th in the league if you can parade a trophy instead? I wonder how Mourinho would be viewed now had he held the League Cup trophy aloft with Spurs?

So is Moyes right? If football is purely about winning, then should he be considered successful?

Last year, we ended 43 years without a trophy and it felt great. It really did. And Moyes deserves huge credit for masterminding that European adventure. But now he must be judged by his own standards.

You see, his football philosophy only works when you win. And when you don’t, you find out. Even the biggest names find out. Just look at Mourinho. At this point, the guy is a caricature of himself. He goes into a club, invariably wins a trophy, stops winning and gets sacked following a bust-up with fans or owners (or both). Rinse and repeat.

And that’s where we’re at.

Moyes has told us. Big Sam told us. You can’t have attacking, attractive football AND be winners. You can’t play ‘the West Ham way’ AND expect to win trophies or finish in European places.

But by those standards - their standards - you must also be ONE or the OTHER. You must win games OR play attractive football. You can’t do neither. If you’re going to play pragmatic, negative football, you need to deliver trophies and win matches.

When you do neither, you find out.

That said. The Moyes Out calls are premature; a point perfectly illustrated by the result and performance at home to Brentford. Did we play to win? Yes. Did our football excite and entertain? Yes. Did we get all three points? Yes.

While last season’s European victory may have papered over some very large cracks in Moyes’ footballing philosophy and yes, 2024 has, without doubt, been appalling so far, it must also be noted that our dip in form and results coincided with a large list of absentees that included two of our genuine World Class players; Lucas Paquetá and Mohammed Kudus.

Maybe it’s time to give Moyes, well... time. Three months to be exact. If he delivers another season of European football, by way of a top seven finish or a Europa League triumph, that must be considered a win. And that, by Moyes’ standards at least, is what football is all about.

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