Butch Sullivan and the Last Chance Kid: Another Make or Break Week For The West Ham Manager

David Moyes is becoming a regular visitor to the last chance saloon. Will he be giving his last orders at the weekend’s home game against Aston Villa? Or will he come out all guns blazing?

It’s become a little like Groundhog Day at the London Stadium in recent weeks. The club are teetering on the brink of a disastrous relegation with the manager’s job at risk. An adequate home performance releases the immediate pressure on David Moyes. But then, another in the long line of pathetic away displays puts us right back where we started. And so, the cycle starts again. Rinse and repeat!

The away games at Tottenham and Brighton were the first times that West Ham have looked like a team resigned to their fate. The hope that defeat at Tottenham would mean the more enterprising tactics seen against Nottingham Forest were here to stay was washed away like footprints on a Brighton beach. It may have been largely the same team that had thumped Forest, but the attitude was back to the worst of Moyes hyper caution – with the wingers were back to auxiliary defenders. If you don’t give opponents something to worry about then you give them the freedom of the park – and Brighton were adept at using it. How can a manager with a thousand or so matches under his belt not understand that? He even managed to make matters worse at half-time (when the match was still theoretically alive) by replacing the attack minded Said Benrahma with worker-bee, Pablo Fornals.

Those last two games with no goals and just three shots on target between them added to the season’s shocking away form. Just six points and seven goals from thirteen games. Not a single away win in the league since 28 August and victory over this weekend’s opponents, Aston Villa.

There was a pivotal moment at the Brighton match where Moyes scowled with incredulity at the away support who sang “You don’t know what you’re doing!” The fans have had enough and Moyes is demonstrating the notorious thin skin that was a feature of his time at Sunderland. All he has to offer are weasel words about the relative success enjoyed in the previous two years. We thank you for that, Dave. But that was then, and this is now.

The only shock bigger than Moyes believing he is doing a good job is that the Board also seem to think the same. Or, in reality, are hoping to muddle through until the summer in the hope that West Ham can stay up on goal difference. The logic is difficult to fathom. Performances have been on a downward spiral for ages, there are clear tensions between manager and players, a ruinous relegation is just around the corner. How can further inaction make sense? I really don’t believe the ‘there’s no-one better available’ argument. The atmosphere is getting toxic, and change is the best way of clearing the air. Surely, it must be worth stumping up the compensation to avoid wiping untold millions off the club’s value. Whatever their other faults, the owners have invested large sums of money in the club – it’s just that they haven’t spent it particularly wisely. Just look at Brighton and compare the value for money that a proper scouting setup can deliver.

The debate as to how much the players should take responsibility for the current position is an interesting one. At the end of the day that is what we see on the pitch. Michail Antonio fluffing a goalscoring opportunity, Tomas Soucek misplacing a pass, Ben Johnson caught out of position. Are these symptoms or causes of our decline? I’ve not had the impression until recently that the players were anything less than committed. That they might not be as good as the players we would like to have, or are too old and too slow is not their fault.

Football is all about systems now – being well-drilled and attacking and defending as a unit. The best systems allow free expression to be exhibited within an overall structure. Except this revolution has passed some managers by. At the top level there are fine margins and the players must understand and buy-in to what is expected, or they will be caught out. It’s only my personal speculation but I sense that player power was behind the changes and euphoria of the Forest victory, but they were brought down to earth with a bump when the manager wanted to play more cautiously again at Brighton.     

The bottom line is that it is impossible to change a whole squad. Changing a manager is far easier. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed. David Sullivan must understand what is going on at the club and the serious risks of doing nothing. It’s not as if he doesn’t have previous experience of not acting quickly enough.


Tonight, sees a return to the European Conference League with West Ham visiting AEK Larnaka for the first leg, round of 16 tie. The competition is the one remaining chance of glory this season. Larnaka are currently second in the Cypriot First Division and have the distinction of having competed in all three UEFA competitions this season. They finished third in their Europa League group which included Fenerbahce, Rennes, and Dynamo Kiev. They reached the Round of 16 by beating Dnipro-1 from Ukraine. Although based in Cyprus, their team is largely made up of players from Spain, Portugal, and the Balkan states.

This will be no pushover against a team of part-time plumbers and postmen, but I’m fancying that we should have enough to come out on top. Whatever the outcome, I don’t see the result having any impact on Moyes position.


On Sunday, the crunch will come when West Ham host Aston Villa. The visitors have moved into a comfortable mid-table position since the arrival of Unai Emery. His side are prone to flakiness at the back, but have plenty of pace going forward to rattle the Hammers defence. What will be very interesting is how the crowd react if it’s another slow start from West Ham. It could turn out to be a very difficult watch. COYI!

We Did It Moyes Way: West Ham Have No Regrets As Villa Face The Final Curtain

With the season coming to an end the Hammers have finally got into their stride. Can the end in style against relegation threatened Aston Villa or will they have mentally switched off?

So here we are, finally at the end of the longest season on record. The culmination of 9 games in 36 hectic days since the coronavirus interrupted restart. As often as not, there is little to play for come the last day of the season, and the whole occasion gets to take on something of a party atmosphere. Players go through the motions while supporters are happy to have a bit of a knees-up. Very different this year, however, with no fans in the stadium and opponents Aston Villa still very much embroiled in a last gasp relegation fight.

Those long suffering fans who have witnessed the last few West Ham matches might well be asking who those impostors in claret and blue are? The strutting air of confidence, dazzling movement, fizzing passes and rapid counter attacks all feels so foreign. What has happened to that team of plodders who laboured aimlessly through the previous thirty-odd games? There were media reports of players urging the team to take this current form into the next season. But this is not just a matter of form, it is a whole new chalk and cheese approach from that served up under Manuel Pellegrini and,  in fact, during the early months of David Moyes.

The new found confidence just goes to prove that passing success and possession retention increases significantly when improved fitness levels and mobility provide the passer with more and better options.  Players are no longer flat-footed or get easily channelled into nonthreatening cul-de-sacs. It would be churlish not to give much of the credit for the turnaround to Moyes. It may have taken longer than hoped to see improvement, but organisation, shape and energy have increased immensely. His two transfer window signings have made the world of difference and the transformation of Michail Antonio into an unlikely striking hero has been stunning – just as it had been previously with Marko Arnautovic.

No doubt there are the hardcore hate the board, hate the stadium and hate the manager brigade who will never be convinced but Moyes deserves a crack at re-modelling the squad at West Ham. Judge him on results and performances, by all means, but to dislike a manager as a matter of principle seems plain wrong.

I will be watching the summer transfer activity with interest. No doubt the club will need to unload a fair number of existing high earning players to balance the books and raise funds. And the extent to which transfer fees and activity will be impacted by post Covid financial realities is uncertain. The intention to recruit young, ambitious players with something to prove is the right strategy – let’s wait and see how well it is put into practice. Can David Sullivan resist the urge to meddle and pursue yet another of his vanity signings?

Moyes will certainly be treating today’s game with utmost seriousness, aware of the responsibility he has to other teams in the relegation battle. There is also a few extra bob in Premier League prize money to play for. I don’t envisage any surprise changes to the starting line-up being made, unless they are enforced by injuries. If either Aaron Cresswell or Jarrod Bowen are unavailable then it will be straight swaps by Arthur Masuaku and Andriy Yarmolenko.   There’ll be no throwing in kids or messing about with formations.

What we won’t know until the game kicks-off is whether the players are equally sufficiently motivated to put in one last shift. Or will they have mentally switched off, even unconsciously? I really hope they are able to carry the momentum from the last handful of games into today’s finale.

Villa have themselves come into a handy run of late season form with two wins and a draw in their last three. A marked improvement when you think that many wondered whether they would pick up any points at all after the re-start. Their defence is abysmal and the visitors will again rely heavily of the running, prompting and diving of Jack Grealish, possibly make his farewell performance for the Villains. It is widely repeated that Grealish is the most fouled player in the Premier League, but when you go over easier than a drunken ice-skater that is no real surprise. The dive to try to win a penalty in the game against Palace was outrageous. Whatever did happen to that law about deceiving the referee that earned Manuel Lanzini a retrospective ban? The shortest clampdown in refereeing history.   Grealish aside the only other real threat appears to be from the in-form Trezeguet.

Today’s dynamic refereeing duo are Michael Oliver (whistle) and David Coote (console). For some reason that combination does not fill me with total confidence when adjudicating exaggerated swallow-dives in the penalty area.

Lawro has today’s game down as a 2-0 home win – if all his West Ham predictions for the season had been correct, the Hammers would be finishing in 10th place with 53 points.  Charlie Nicholas says it will be 1-1.

I can’t see how West Ham can fail to score a few today against such a poor defence. I would love to see the team put on a bit of a show and end the season on a high – a performance with just a touch of arrogance that doesn’t end up as complacency. Villa will be fighting for everything but will also be nervous about what is happening elsewhere. My prediction is West Ham to win by a comfortable two goal margin, but with Villa to survive anyway due to events elsewhere.