Parallel lines

The international break is once more upon us. For many, it’s approached with a sense of apathy.

The parallels between the national side and our beloved West Ham run deep, with both on a sustained run of near unprecedented success in recent years. Yet still the managers of both units appear to not appreciated or wanted by the fans.


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Gareth Southgate, despite taking England to our first major final since 1966 and a World Cup semi final, despite being bereft of talent in key defensive areas has been met with scorn for his failure to capitalise on promising positions and having a reliance on trusted generals despite exhibiting poor club form.

Yet he has produced England's best sustained run of tournament results since Alf Ramsey was at the helm.

David Moyes, despite three successful European campaigns, a long awaited trophy and getting West Ham - consistently - in the upper echelons of the table is often criticised for a safety first mindset and tactical rigidity.

So why, despite the statistical joy, do both men get such a raw deal? After all, they’ve delivered more than than we’ve experienced for a long, long time.

Well, firstly I think part of the problem lies initially in they were far from popular appointments. Moyes was a manager of low stock when he stepped into the mess of the Bilic fallout. His return after the Pellegrini experiment failed was met with universal apathy. He came with a stigma which he has failed to shake off.

Southgate was promoted to a somewhat poisoned chalice of a role after Roy Hodgson bored the nation, with Big Sam adding a very brief temporary layer of embarrassment. Following doing a sterling job with the Under 21s, he was thrust into the main role when nobody seemed really interested in taking on the job of the most pressurised job in football.

And a nation yawned.

The second contributing factor is the pragmatic approach they both favour. Moyes favours a counter-attacking approach, with little possession - not the time-honoured West Ham style of being on the front foot, going toe-to-toe with opponents many have been brought up on and covet.


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Southgate too looks towards a more patient style, keping the ball, seeking cautious build-ups and looking to exploit gaps behind defenders with clever, intricacy. It's a far cry from the blood and thunder of the Premier League. A more continental style for a modern era.

The third key factor is the era in which we operate. Both men are under greater scrutiny, as the 21st century citizen demands everything now - if not sooner. Every move, every decision, every breath is analysed, critiqued and pulled apart by the public who are data driven 24/7 with open access to voice their diatribe to a larger audience than most deserve.

Both have other traits which frustrate many. Moyes is accused of not utilising his youth options. Southgate, conversely, is often attacked for introducing them too early. Both get criticised for relying on core players. Both get taken to task for being tactically inflexible and reactive, rather than proactive.

So is the abuse either manager receive warranted? Moyes has, as mentioned earlier, delivered a trophy we’ve all craved for so long. We have a core of very talented players, and one of the most coveted attacking triumvirates in domestic football.

The pragmatic approach has brought some joy. When it works it’s delightful, but when it doesn’t it’s painful. There seems to be no middle ground in either performance or fan appraisal. Respect is definitely due, but it’s a clear that when Moyes does depart the legacy willl be of division rather than joy.

Southgate for me deserves more. Yes we’ve come up short, but we’re getting deeper into tournaments more consistently. Those chastising failures to get over the line should look back to every previous manager.

But failing to win with this latest "golden generation"? Sven Goran Eriksson couldn’t do it with a bigger, bolder, more experienced set. Those who look back misty-eyed to 1986, 1990 and 1996 should remember how abject England were for large proportions of the tournaments.

Neither Moyes or Southgate are perfect. Neither are particularly popular. But for long periods of time supporting club and country, they’ve given us hope and actual joy.

And so for that, at least, respect is due.

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