In true West Ham style the eviction of Slaven Bilic from the manager’s office at the London Stadium turned out to be a long drawn out affair. By the time the axe finally fell anyone who had been even remotely following the dramawould have been fully aware that Slaven was on his way and that his apparent successor would be David Moyes.
Having resisted the temptation to dismiss Bilic in the summer, when time and options were more plentiful, the owners had effectively painted themselves into a corner by tolerating increasingly desperate performances until even they must have known that the team were certain relegation candidates unless immediate changes were made. Although by the end most were in tune with Bilic’s departure (no matter how much of a nice guy he was) it would be difficult (or should that be impossible) to find any supporters who would have had Moyes at the top of their wish list for replacements.
The options at this stage of the season are clearly limited and the attractiveness of the task to anyone already in a job was not worth breaking a contract for. I don’t subscribe to the view that cheap was the key criteria although would dismiss talk of sounding out names such as Ancelloti, Mancini or even Mario Silva as the same fanciful pipe-dreaming that we hear about alleged top striker targets during each transfer window.
West Ham has always liked to represent itself as a family club but increasingly it has the look and feel of one of the many dysfunctional families that regularly turn up in Albert Square; at least if you take notice of the angry brigade that dominate social media. If what we read is true there now exists the perfect storm of disgruntlement on the Twitterverse that encompasses owners, stadium, players and both outgoing and incoming managers.
During my time supporting West Ham I don’t recall there ever being owners that were loved or respected by the majority of supporters. Maybe there have been brief periods of optimism such as the start of the Icelandic Age; but we all know how badly that ended, eventually creating the conditions that allowed Gold and Sullivan to ride in as our ‘saviours’. The club is no doubt in better shape financially under the stewardship of the two Dave’s but it is no more professional on the footballing side that it has ever been; very much stuck in the last century. Although it may not necessarily be for the better but the game has changed immensely over the years. Stumbling along from season to season and crisis to crisis (with the occasional relegation) is not an option for a club hoping to sustain a 50,000 plus stadium no matter how loyal its fan base.
The greatest negligence at the club is in failing to create a structure that provides continuity between the frequent changes of managers/ coaches (which have become inevitable) and to deliver an infrastructure, in the form of competitive and professional training facilities, which will attract and get the best out of their players. West Ham have been left badly behind in both areas. David Sullivan playing at Director of Football is a nonsense and Rush Green is way behind what should be expected at one of the world’s top twenty football clubs.
Despite the shortcomings (!) of the owners, the terrible performances on the pitch were clearly down the manager. Anyone who has regularly watched over the past year and a half must have observed the problems with fitness, tactics, team selection, formations, application and motivation. I don’t profess to understand how our transfer business works but the assumption has to be that the manager has the final say before any player puts pen to paper (even if the board are not prepared to pay the asking price for some of those at the top of his wish list). Working within a budget is a reality for almost all managers and I don’t go along with the view that Bilic was starved of cash, or that he was undermined during his time at the club. It is unfortunate that money has been wasted in paying over the top on wages rather than making that money available for transfer fees. A focus on recruiting experienced (e.g. old) players, an inability to discover young talent from lower leagues and a reluctance to develop youth have all played their part in assembling a squad that, although theoretically talented, is unbalanced and poorly deployed.
What impact Moyes can have (assuming he is the chosen one) is anyone’s guess. Many seem to want him to fail before he has started which is difficult to understand even if he does come across as a miserable bugger. After successful stints at Preston and Everton his career has taken a decidedly downward turn over recent years. The time spent at Manchester United, as Ferguson’s chosen successor, was always going to be a difficult gig and it was a relative failure rather than an absolute one. He was dismissed from Real Sociedad for being average rather than terrible but it was his spell at Sunderland which is the greatest cause for concern. He seemed to make little impression at the Stadium of Light where his apparent defeatist and morose attitude guided the Black Cats to a tame bottom placed finish. The only possible mitigation is that Sunderland was and is a club in massive disarray and irreversible decline; a look at the current Championship table would appear to confirm this.
If West Ham get the Everton era Moyes then he will bring far better organisation and greater levels of fitness to the team. It may not be brilliant to watch but it should be good enough. There is an old joke about two hunters being attacked by a bear where one stops to put on his running shoes. “You can’t outrun a bear” say his partner. “I don’t have to” he replies “I only have to outrun you!” Likewise our task is not necessarily to storm up the league but to do enough to finish above three other sides. In fact, those not wanting a long term engagement with Moyes might prefer our escape to be as narrow as possible so that no contract extension is triggered. For me, anyone who is hoping for failure and relegation (and I have seen some comments to that effect) has a rather twisted outlook; even if the motivation is to bring about a change of ownership.
At the time of writing the other rumour doing the rounds is the possibility of Stuart Pearce coming in as a coach to support Moyes. I don’t have a strong impression for Pearce as manager material but he could have a strong impact in delivering the much needed rocket up the player’s collective backsides. Pretty much anything has to be an upgrade on Bilic surrounding himself with his mates to a point where there was no viable caretaker to step in even on a temporary basis
It looks like Moyes is going to be appointed today and it is only right that he should start with a clean slate whatever the reservations. Can he work wonders in the next three games before we embark on the December of death? It will be a tall order but he deserves our backing and support until experience proves otherwise.