Moyes in Prague

Moyes: The plan is to try and do something special

David Moyes has already enjoyed one fairytale ending in his West Ham United career, and now he would love nothing more but to sign-off his time in charge with another.

A year on from Jarrod Bowen’s last-minute UEFA Europa Conference League final winner against Fiorentina in Prague, the Hammers head to Manchester City for the final game of the Scotsman’s four-and-a-half-year spell as manager.

A positive result would not only see Moyes end his tenure on a real high, following last weekend’s rousing home send-off and win over Luton Town, but it could also see him deny Pep Guardiola and his side a fourth consecutive Premier League title.

Whatever happens at Etihad Stadium, though, the 61-year-old will always reflect on his time as West Ham manager with immense pride and satisfaction in the job he, his staff and his teams have done, securing three straight seasons of European football, reaching the latter stages of three straight UEFA competitions, and of course lifting that 12.5kg Conference League trophy high above his head nigh-on 12 months ago.

“They gave me a ‘thank you’ gift last week against Luton, so that was the biggest gift they could give because we were so disappointed a week before,” he explained. “The win against Luton was all I needed. And I hope that they can give me another one this weekend! That’s the plan. The plan is to try and do something special.”

Bowen will set a new single-season Premier League goalscoring record if he hits the net at the Etihad – the same venue where he made his West Ham debut after Moyes signed him from EFL Championship side Hull City in early 2020 – and would also register his 100th direct goal involvement in just 203 appearances under the Scotsman’s guidance.

Having also developed into a full England international under Moyes’ management, Bowen paid tribute to his boss in the week, and the pair have clearly struck up a close relationship.

The Glaswegian is not the sort of person to admit too much fondness for his players, having learnt his trade from the likes of legendary Scottish managers Jock Stein, Walter Smith and Sir Alex Ferguson, but he is ready to admit he has deep respect for not just Bowen, but all of those who have helped him achieve 12 top-ten finishes in 16 completed seasons as a Premier League boss.

“I’ve said this before, that there are some players who you do get closer with, but I've got a Scottish background which I’ve managed from and, if you look back at the history of the Scottish managers, we’ve all been quite tough, people like Sir Alex and people of that ilk,” he explained.

“I've always used the sort of ‘tough’ love, if I can use that sort of word. I’m happy to be tough, but I love all the players, and I’ve said to all of them that I’ll be coming to their countries and they can take me for dinner or a drink! I’ll be coming to watch them play. All the players I’ve got, I’m connected to, because of what they’ve done for me over the years.

“We've had brilliant players here and great times with them, and long may that continue in the future.”

So, if history were to repeat itself and Bowen were to go clean through late on, with everything on the line, would Moyes back his top scorer to hit the net again?

“I’d put my money on Jarrod, yep!” he smiled. “Jarrod, if he can get those opportunities and whatnot, he's got it, so I hope we can get those opportunities and get Jarrod in with a chance to score.”

Of course, it would be lovely if Bowen could give Moyes a fairytale send-off for a second time, but football is not often that giving – particularly when title-chasing Manchester City are the opponents, needing a point to secure a sixth title in seven seasons.

Looking across to the opposing technical area and seeing Pep Guardiola standing there would be enough to scare many a manager. But Moyes, with 696 Premier League matches of experience under his belt, will relish the challenge, just as he has when facing some of the legends of the dugout throughout his 20-plus year career.

“It's easy when you're not a manager, as you always think that you know how to make it work,” he observed. “It's when you become one you actually say ‘Oh, my goodness, I've got to find a way of stopping so many talented players’.

“We've actually done quite well at Man City without getting results. We've actually been quite close in some of the games. I think we lost to a set piece maybe last year, thinking back. So, we've actually put in some pretty good performances, but ultimately what you're judged on is wins and not saying you played quite well or our style was good, because when it comes down to it, it’s winning which absolutely matters.

“I think the Premier League, at different times, has shown incredible teams and incredible managers like José Mourinho, Sir Alex, Arsène Wenger, Jürgen Klopp and Pep, so it's been a pleasure working against them… sometimes! What you learn from them is that they want to win more than anything, and if you beat them or you draw with them, they're not happy. So those men are tough people to play against as well as being excellent coaches, so that's been good and I’ve enjoyed it.” 

David Moyes with his father

It has been some career, and one which Moyes could never have envisaged when he was assisting his father, David Senior, at Drumchapel Amateurs in Clydebank, as a boy. Indeed, it is one he likely did not envisage when he was appointed Preston North End manager at the age of 34 in 1998, nor even when he initially moved to the Premier League with Everton at 38 in 2002.  

But Moyes took the opportunities he earned, transforming Everton, being personally selected by his mentor Ferguson to take over at Manchester United in 2013, trying his luck in Spain with Real Sociedad, then recovering from the shock of relegation with Sunderland to save West Ham once, then twice, then lead the east Londoners on a trio of unforgettable European tours.

“When I started, I was no different to most people,” he reminisced. “I hoped I was going to be a player. I hoped I could be a youth coach or maybe help out somewhere. I was very fortunate at Preston to get opportunities which were incredible for me at the time. But I have to say, I qualified as a coach when I was 20 or 21 years old. Then I went and did the whole thing (coaching badges) again as I had done it in Scotland and then I did the whole thing again in England. I went and watched clubs and went and watched training. I took boys’ teams and I took pub teams, so maybe I was at that time planning it, but I never knew that I was ever going to be given an opportunity to manage at the top level, so that's why I'm incredibly grateful for those chances.”

David Moyes and family

And so, as the curtain prepares to fall on his West Ham career, Moyes is looking forward to returning home and spending valuable time with his family – time he has not had during 260 high-pressure matches in charge. It is time to recharge, take stock and consider his future path in football.

But, with one more game to play with the Hammers, the man who has brought so much to this Club would love nothing more than to sign-off in style.

“At the moment, I don’t really want any offers,” he concluded. “I really want to have a break and I want to stand back and take my time and see what I’m going to do. I'm certainly not in a hurry to do things. I could jump quickly, but at the moment, I'm going sit back and just take my time.

“It’s really having some time as a family, really. I've had breaks before, been off before, but four-and-a-half years is actually not a bad stint probably in management at the moment. Obviously, there's Jürgen who has done nine years, and there's Pep who is in his eighth year, so there are not many who have done longer. 

“I’ve done eleven years at Everton and not many go those distances anymore, so I’m really, really comfortable with the situation and I'm really fortunate that I've been lucky enough to be a football manager and get 1,100 games or so, with most of them being in the Premier League, at the top level. 

“So, I feel pretty privileged to have had that, as not many people become Premier League managers. A lot of people think they could do it but, let me tell you, it's a lot harder than they think it may seem.”