David Moyes and Football’s Culture of Failure

Deputy editor Andrew Sinclair assesses West Ham United's appointment of David Moyes as manager and questions the British footballing culture of failure.


On 7 November 2017, former Everton and Manchester United boss David Moyes replaced Slaven Bilic as manager of West Ham United. He tasted defeat in his first game in charge as Marco Silva’s clinical Watford swept them aside 2-0, although the Hammers did considerably improve during the second half.

Whether Moyes can keep West Ham up and turn their fortunes around remains to be seen, but his appointment left me scratching my head. The Scot had been unemployed since getting the boot at Sunderland at the end of last season, where he won a mere eight games out of the 43 he presided over, leaving him with a win ratio of just 18.6 per cent. Before that he’d got the boot from Real Sociedad after winning just 12 games in a calendar year; a win ratio of 28.6 per cent. And we all know where he was before rocking up at the Anoeta.

His appointment was endemic of the revolving door culture that now dominates the club game. The exorbitant financial costs of loss now means that clubs are afraid of taking risks. So when results do not go according to what the ownership desires, ditching the incumbent coach and opting for a new leader is the go-to plan. However, teams like West Ham, Leicester, and Everton have refused to take a punt on people like Gary Rowett or Chris Wilder, or even someone like Sean Dyche. Instead, they reward those like Moyes, Alan Pardew and Gus Poyet, who’ve failed to impress and fail to achieve on a repeated basis.

The Hammers have one of the biggest stadiums in England with a large fan base and squad good enough to be challenging for a top-eight finish – what has Moyes done to deserve that job? He got it because he’s got a name and he consistently overachieved at Everton. I would argue that was a unique case, a club where he got time to bed in, work on a shoestring and had a chairman in Bill Kenwright who supported him. It was also four years ago.

Unsurprisingly at United he struggled with the pressure, and at Sociedad there was the somewhat mitigating factor of the language barrier. But last season’s Sunderland produced some of the most abject displays the Premier League has ever seen and they never had a sniff of survival.

After a season like that, he’s not worthy of a top flight job, let alone one at a club the scale of West Ham. Yet, football rewards that kind of ineptitude. By having a job at a bigger club, and some kind of longevity, you’ll keep getting the big jobs and being rewarded for doing a bad job.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to England either. In Scotland you’ve got Owen Coyle being appointed at Ross County, getting the nod ahead of developing coaches in the lower tiers like Jack Ross and Gary Naysmith.

Coyle left Burnley mid-way through a Premier League campaign to take over at local rivals Bolton, whom he guided to a pair of 14th places finishes before he got them relegated. He struggled at Wigan, winning just seven of 23 games before getting the boot and heading stateside to take over at Houston Dynamo. Under his leadership an exciting, precocious young team that were pleasurable to watch became a tedious, dull, and insipid group of players with no direction. He was promptly dismissed before getting a job at Blackburn. One of the biggest sides in the Championship, Rovers could include amongst their playing staff Danny Graham, Anthony Stokes and Charlie Mulgrew, yet Coyle won less than 30 per cent of his games in charge. By the time he was fired, there was little Tony Mowbray could do to keep them up and they were relegated.

So despite a record of mediocrity, Coyle got the County job. He was not the natural choice, nor an excellent appointment, but his selection was hardly surprising. He kept going through the revolving door of football management, knowing that having had big jobs, he’d continue to get them. That revolving door is also abundantly clear if you look at the names most closely linked with the vacant Rangers managerial position.

I’m not saying that if you get sacked from somewhere you don’t deserve a job elsewhere. The way football works now, you don’t get time to bed in and you’re almost certainly going to have a sacking on your ledger before making a real success of yourself. What I am saying is that the recent appointments of David Moyes and Owen Coyle highlight that you can now fail over and over again yet still get rewarded with big jobs. There is no getting to the back of the queue, or proving their nous at a smaller outfit, they just get parachuted back in at the top level as if nothing has happened.

There are an abundance of talented young coaches in lower divisions who deserve a shot, and whilst I’m not foolish enough to be blind to the risks involved in appointing an unknown commodity, they can never hope to get an opportunity as long as clubs continue to reward failure over promise and keep spinning that revolving door and pulling out whatever they can find.


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